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New HCC booklet gives top 10 tips for woodchip pads

Apr 3 2012

Well designed woodchip pads can be a welfare friendly and cost-effective way to over-winter cattle.

Now Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales has produced a booklet giving advice on the planning requirements, installation costs, design and construction of these structures.

Woodchip pads first became popular in the UK about 10 years ago as an alternative to enclosed structures, said Lynfa Davies, HCC's Technical Development Executive.

Over-wintering cattle outside on a well designed and managed woodchip pad offers many benefits including improved animal health and welfare, less damage to pasture from treading, reduced labour costs and a cheaper alternative to traditional buildings.

But it is important that pads are properly designed, constructed and actively managed for the full benefits to be realised and to avoid the risk of water pollution.

To assist farmers, the booklet contains a list of top 10 tips for creating and maintaining the perfect woodchip pad.

  1. Seek specialist advice at an early stage, including checking with your local planning office.
  2. Ideally locate the pad on a gently sloping, south-facing area.
  3. Site the pad at least 50m from a watercourse or ditch to avoid sensitive groundwater areas.
  4. Ensure an effective drainage system.
  5. Estimate effluent volume, taking into account a number of factors including rainfall, animal numbers and the amount absorbed by woodchip.
  6. Use the correct size of woodchip.
  7. Active management is essential with, for example, removing heavily soiled chips and replacing with clean ones regularly.
  8. The most effective method of dealing with dirty woodchip is to remove it physically, rather than using cultivators.
  9. Apply dirty woodchip directly to grassland to make the best use of its nitrogen content.
  10. Locate feed fences and water troughs outside the pad area.

Conventional animal housing is expensive and partly explains the interest in woodchip pads for out-wintering, said Mrs Davies. Latest guideline costs estimated that covered straw yard cattle housing was 700 per head while a slatted floor building for 120 growing cattle cost 1,400 per head.

A scoping study of woodchip pads in Wales and England estimated construction costs excluding on-farm labour averaging 106 per head.

The booklet, ‘Improved design and management of woodchip pads for sustainable out-wintering of livestock', is available on-line at www.hccmpw.org.uk or by calling HCC on 01970 625050.

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