Alberta feedlots from Picture Butte to Barrhead have installed roller compacted concrete in some or all of their pens.
Cody Metheral, agri-environmental extension specialist with Alberta Agriculture, has been working with many of them from the start and continues to help people decide if the product is right for their operations.
“Really this is a balance between cost and performance,” Metheral told those at the Jan. 14 Manure Management event in Lethbridge, near where the vast majority of Alberta feedlots are based.
Roller compressed concrete is a blend of conventional concrete materials — cement, water, sand, aggregate and sometimes fly ash — that is mixed in a different ratio and requires no forms or finishing. It is also cheaper than traditional concrete.
It is a hard, durable material with construction characteristics similar to asphalt, said Metheral.
Roller compressed concrete has been used extensively in forestry, road building and other commercial projects but feedlot use is relatively new. The goals in the cattle feeding industry are to reduce pen cleaning and maintenance costs and improve animal welfare and performance that can suffer when rainfall, snow or spring breakup create muddy pen conditions.
Some producers are also installing it in silage pits, alleyways, compost pads and feed storage areas, Metheral said.
“There is interest in dairy and poultry applications too.”
Metheral said roller compacted concrete is usually installed six to eight inches thick in feedlots and sometimes more in high traffic areas. Recommended strength is 15 to 25 MPa (megapascals, an indication of how much pressure the material can withstand before cracking or failing).
Over time, he said, producers have begun doing much of the installation work themselves, using heavy equipment in open areas and smaller push packers in tighter spaces.
However, greater understanding of base preparation is needed, and Metheral also encouraged producers to consider quality control and assurance when contracting purchase and installation of the product.
Runoff potential must also be considered because studies indicate more runoff from roller compacted concrete pens.
There are claims that roller compacted concrete in feedlot pens reduces dust, flies and odour, but Metheral said more information is needed before that can be verified.