Livestock heavy use pad made from sawmill byproducts.
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.
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.
I have learned that the transportation and handling is much more difficult than expected. I also learned that the material that I could get for free from the small mill located two miles away is going to cost $600-$700 from larger mills. This is partly from transportation but it is also from demand. There is a large quantity of this material being produced but much of it is tied up in yearly contracts being used for things such as bedding for large dairy farms to producing commercial mulch.
The results from what I have done thus far are promising. The slabs were hard for the cattle to walk on but they did not kick out or push away from the feeders as much as I feared they might. The slabs kept the animals above the mud and prevented a liquid mess right next to the feeders. Time will tell, but it appears the slabs being coated with the feces, dirt, and wasted hay are forming a seal that is preventing air from getting to the slabs and slowing the decomposition process. I feel they may last much longer than anticipated.
Work Plan For 2013
My plan is to bring in truckloads of wood chips to complete the project. I plan to hold a larger field day with local farmers and submit an article to the Stockman Grass Farmer Magazine.
Because assuming we would be finishing as soon as the weather allowed, I only had a small grazing group of eight individuals at the farm. My schedule is to bring in the truckloads of woodchips in June and July and have a large field day in late Aug. or Sept. I will also be submitting an article to the Stockman Grass Farmer Magazine.