- Animals: bovine
- Animal Production: preventive practices
- Education and Training: demonstration
This SARE Project involved using sawmill slabs and waste products as a material for a livestock heavy use feedpad. The sawmill materials proved to be a good material for the pad. It has packed in as a solid material and withstood the abuse of cattle. Initially one important question was if the cattle would push out the material around the feeders. After extended periods of use the material has not needed to be replaced or reshaped. The pad had maintained its shape and supported the cattle and kept the feed area dry. One unexpected result is that the sawmill byproduct pad stays dryer than a concrete pad located on the same property. The sawmill byproduct pad tends to let water run away while the concrete pad traps the water and if the concrete pad is not cleaned on a regular basis it becomes very soupy around the feeders. The sawmill byproduct pad had always stayed dry and has never had a liquid build-up.
This project proved the materials will make a very good feed pad. The cost of using sawmill byproducts for heavy use pads will vary by location. The variable will be how much it costs to obtain the material and transport it to the location of the pad. The cost varied by material and distance from the sawmill. At the begining of the project the first sawmill gave away its slabs for free. It was located within a mile of the pad construction site. The cost for the first pad construction was $3.00 per cubic yard installed. After the closing of the sawmill located within one mile of the project, the cost of the project changed dramitically. The cost of the pad construction from the last sawmill was $15.00 per cubic yard. The pads were constructed at an 18″ thickness. The cost of the last material was comparable to concrete when pad thickness is taken into comparison.
The sawmill byproducts have exceeded my expectations as a construction material for livestock heavy use feedpads. I intend to continue to search for locations and methods to obtain the material for less cost.
This project involved using sawmill byproducts for a heavy use feedpad for cattle. The first step in the project was to select a location that had good drainage and had easy access from the road for delivery of material from the mill. Slight excavation was required to divert water away from the site. Initially this project started with material coming from a sawmill located within 1 mile of the pad location. The sawmill material was free. The only cost was the labor to band and load material, transport it to the pad location, and construct the pad. The second step was to rent a truck from JD Love Trucking and Excavating to move slab material from the mill to the pad site. This proved very challenging. If the truck was filled to its potential, the material would lodge in the door opening and jam during dumping. The result would be that I would have to cut individual pieces with a chainsaw and try to unplug the jam. It was very time consuming and dangerous. If we would have been trucking on level ground we would have removed the tailgate from the bed and it would have made the job much easier. However, we had to bring the material up a very steep hill and trying to strap bundles of loose slabs did not seem like a good option. I brought many very small loads that would flow through the tailgate. However it was not very practical because of the time and labor. After discussing the issue with the owner of the mill, he had a new plan. He started banding the slabs in bundles and we determined we would move all of the bundles on a logging truck and place them orderly in a pile with the cherry picker from the logging truck. Over the next few months we acquired hundreds of bundles. The plan was that we were going to move them to the pad location in November. After dealing with all of the complications from the drought, it began to rain in late October and never stopped until March. It became too wet to get the equipment into the needed location to finish the pad. In the meantime the dry bundles of slabs were gradually disappearing as people would use them for firewood. By February the banded slabs were 2/3rds gone. During February the project faced a major setback. The mill that was located two miles from the pad site lost its pallet order and shut down. This coupled with the difficulty in moving the slabs resulted in a change of plans. I had been using the slabs and feeding directly on top of them. There were drawbacks because the cattle could not easily walk on them. The plan had been to eventually cover the slabs with sawdust or other sawmill byproducts. The new plan was to locate byproducts from a mill in Marietta. It is located 18 miles away and they would deliver a semi load of wood chips equaling 100 cubic yards for $600-700. My intention is to finish the project using this material as soon as it is dry enough to get the truck into the location to dump.
As I kept exploring options and the project continued to evolve, I located additional sawmills with material that was suitable for the pad. An interesting discovery was that the sawmills had different types of material to use for the feedpad based on the methods they used to process their lumber and dispose of their waste. As mentioned earlier, I could purchase a prepared bark chip that was often used for mulch with a cost of $60/yard delivered. I eventually was able to find material as cheap as $1.50-$5.00 per yard and the trucking cost varied by location.
The material from these sawmills was actually better for the pad construction because they were smaller than the slabs but more solid and longer lasting that the bark mulch. They were also much easier to shape into the mound for the pad than the slabs. They were also easier to transport and more efficient to fill the truck because of the density of the load. However, they negatively impacted the cost of the project because of having to pay for the material and because of the the added cost of tranporting the material an additional 15 miles.
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The objective of this project was to determine if sawmill byproducts would work as a material for a heavy use feedpad for cattle. Thus far the feedpad has exceeded my expectations. The material has packed in well and has kept the feeding area clean and dry. When stone is used for feedpads it often rolls out and leave holes that collect water in the area when cattle stand to eat. I have used the feedpads with steers as large as 700# and have not had to refill or reshape the pad. I also feel the smaller material and the waste hay/manure pack is sealing the pad. The true measure of the pad’s value will be its longevity. If the pad seals and prevents oxygen from entering, I feel it will last for a very long time. I have not seen any signs of degredation thus far.