Woodchip heavy-use areas (aka 'woodchip pads') are an improved type of livestock holding area that uses large, screened woodchips as a surface material instead of concrete. These could be an excellent solution for small-scale livestock producers in northern New England wanting to protect pastures during sensitive times of the year, while also reducing environmental impact to water quality. They are less expensive and offer increased animal comfort compared to concrete. Our team is actively studying these systems, and have worked with university and research farms to construct several in the Northeast over the past few years, with the most recent one installed in fall of 2016. Thus far, feedback has been positive, and monitoring has shown that runoff volumes and nutrient loads from the pads are much lower than the concrete alternative.
Livestock farmers are seeking to protect their pastures during vulnerable times, provide their animals with a comfortable barnyard, reduce runoff that can deteriorate water quality near their farms, and do so using easily-accessed, affordable materials.
Woodchip Pad Basics & Recommendations
Woodchip pads are livestock heavy-use areas that have a drainage layer overlain by woodchips as a surface material. These systems have been used for years on beef and dairy farms in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, and have been documented to improve animal performance. Systems require careful siting and design due to environmental and management considerations. Information about woodchip pads (PDF).
Woodchip Pads in the News
- Read the Woodchip pads improve livestock health and water quality August 2021 web article from InnoRenew CoP
- Read more about the pads in this July 2020 article from American Agriculturalist online magazine.
- Meet Doug Kenyon and hear how a woodchip pad has made a difference as an out-wintering solution for the cattle on his Mad River Valley Farm on this segment from a January 2017 episode of Across the Fence.
- Faulkner, J.W. , J.L. Miller, T.J. Basden, D.B. DeVallance. 2015. Woodchip heavy-use area effluent quality, quantity, and hydrologic design considerations. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 31(5):783-790.
- DeVallance, D.B., J.W. Faulkner , and T. Basden. 2015. Laboratory Evaluation of Biomass Media for use in Livestock Heavy-Use Areas. ASABE Paper #152189792. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting, July 26-29, New Orleans, LA, USA.
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