Woodchip Barnyard Project
The Bradford County Project:
In 2018, PA NRCS partially funded a project through its Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to implement a wood chip surface heavy use area protection at Dewy Meadows Farm in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. 50 head of black angus beef cattle use this 100’ x 100’ wood chip pad when confined for supplemental feed.
Why the need to stabilize cattle holding areas?
For farms that turn animals outside, there are always some periods during the year when they are confined to small spaces. This presents a challenge because it doesn’t take long for penned livestock to turn an area to mud – a stress recipe for animals, farmers and the environment. That is why the conservation district is constantly planning improvements with farmers to better manage livestock and the natural resources they depend on. When stabilizing a holding area, the goals are clean and dry animals, nutrient and sediment retention, and efficient manure handling.
Why Wood Chips?
The traditional solution is concrete because it effectively contains nutrients and handles long term abuse, but is costly, and farmers often want livestock off concrete when possible to minimize feet and joint stress to their animals. Wood chips over a drainage system can provide a soft, relatively dry wearing surface with benefits for livestock comfort and performance, while lowering construction costs, retaining sediment, and capturing the concentration of nutrients for efficient distribution across the farm. Wood chip pads have been used for livestock confinement in European countries for many years, but the practice is seldom used in the US.
How does it work?
The key to the wood chip pad is drainage - moving water away from livestock. The wood chip pad is constructed with an impermeable subgrade (preferably clay) and perimeter berm containing a grid of perforated pipes under a layer of drainage stone, overlain with 12 inches of wood chips for a wearing surface. Precipitation and liquid waste collected on the open-air pad drains through the wood chips and stone and is collected in a manure storage facility or applied to a vegetated treatment area. The wood chips and stone are very well drained, keeping the surface relatively dry. Feed and water should be provided on an adjacent, hardened area, where manure can be routinely removed. Soiled wood chips on the surface (approximately 4”) are removed seasonally for composting and replaced with new wood chips.
Complete Barnyard Overview