The use of roller compacted concrete in feedlot pens is gaining traction in southern Alberta’s feedlot alley.
Several feedlots have installed the product and with several years of wear from cattle hoofs and pen-cleaning equipment, operators say it seems to hold up well.
“We’ve been pretty happy with it,” said Jordan Kolk of KFL Feeders near Picture Butte, Alta. “It’s pretty bulletproof. It’s very similar to concrete.”
RCC is a blend of concrete that includes fly ash in partial substitution for cement, along with sand, aggregate and common additives.
However, it contains much less water than cement and can be installed without need for forms and extensive finishing. Fly ash is a pulverized coal byproduct.
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Kolk said advantages include reduced costs for pen cleaning and the ability to clean pens year-round. Studies are also underway at KFL to gauge the flooring’s effect on cattle foot health and performance.
The feedlot installed RCC in 11 smaller pens in early October but has used it in other pens for about two years. The product is placed on a clay base that’s been built to proper grade and compacted.
Areas along fence lines and places where the RCC joins other surfaces or was installed on a less than ideal base can develop pockets that require repair, said Kolk, but he doesn’t see it as a major issue.
After installation, the feedlot takes steps to reduce cattle slippage.
“When we first throw (the cattle) in, we usually throw shavings and bales, just to build a bit of a mat, and then after that, when we go in to clean, we try not to clean right down to the fly ash. We leave an inch or so on there.”
Benefits of RCC, as listed by Portland Cement, include strength, quick placement and curing, ability to withstand temperature changes and the absence of need for forms and rebar. It can be hauled by dump trucks and spread by bulldozers or similar equipment.
A southern Alberta supplier, Goldridge Sand and Gravel, sells RCC for $1.87 to $2.10 per sq. foot. Delivery is added to those figures.
Feedlot owner Ed Stronks of Picture Butte pioneered use of the product in Alberta’s feedlot alley. Last year, he told a group of feedlot operators that it has improved animal welfare by eliminating the mud that can occur in feedlot pens, particularly in spring when the clay base can break down.
Cody Metheral, a confined feeding operations extension specialist with Alberta Agriculture, said studies are also underway to examine the economics of RCC in feedlots, as well as its effect on the quality and quantity of water runoff.