Maintenance is a big line item on any farm. Buildings, fences, equipment. There is always something that needs attention. And coming in just as important, but far less glamourous, is gravel. A farm always has the need for more gravel.
With over 3 miles of private gravel roads at Eden Shale we have plenty of need for gravel. That doesn’t include any areas around barns, winter feeding areas, or cattle watering locations.
We recently had to purchase gravel to work on some of the worst spots of the gravel roads. Last fall we put 10 loads (tri-axle dump trucks) of rock down on the main farm road. This is the corridor that we do all our winter feeding from, requiring more maintenance due to the equipment traffic during those wettest months. 10 loads didn’t even get all the bad spots repaired, but we were able to target the worst areas and get the road back into good shape. If you have been on a tour at the farm, you have been down this main corridor.
This spring we purchased two more loads of rock to repair some steep sections of the gravel road that goes down to a creek bottom where our best hay ground is located. This hill requires attention every spring due to the gravel washing down to the bottom. Usually, I move the gravel back to the top and back drag everything smooth. But this year the ditch had filled in causing the water to jump out on to the drive way and wash the road down to bare dirt. The two loads of rock brought the road back up to existing grade and ready for another hay season of traffic.
A maintenance item that has been needing attention for some time now is the automatic waterers in the paddock section of the farm. There are 22 paddocks with 12 different automatic water tanks. All of the waterers have some level of erosion around them and each one needs gravel added to bring it back up to grade. We ordered 4 loads of rock and used it to get the water tanks back in good condition. It took on average about 6 skid steer buckets of gravel for each water location.
As you can see in the photo, these water tanks had not had any gravel added for quite some time. They are all in good shape now, and should be stable for several years of service.
I know gravel is not very glamourous, but it is necessary to keep a farm in good working order.
In the middle of April we rented a skid steer for a week to clean out the winter feeding areas. As I have mentioned before, we use a rotational system with our winter feeding so that the cows will eat their winter hay from four different locations. This allows the manure to not be concentrated into one location and lessens the amount of drudgery that animals have to endure to get to the hay.
The two locations that get the worst are the heifer calving facility and the mature cow calving facility. The heifers eat their hay on an existing concrete pad and it builds up enough that we will scrape it clean 2-3 times during the calving season. This location has a manure stack pad that we store the manure in until conditions are right to spread the manure on pastures and hay fields.
The cow calving facility also has a stack pad that stores the manure. This barn is equipped with 6 different flooring treatments that give the floor structural support when it is wet, but it also has drainage which allows the moister to percolate down away from the bedding. This helps keep the flooring surface dryer and makes for a better surface for the new calves.
If you are interested in learning more about the different flooring types you can go to our website at https://www.edenshalefarm.com/producer-resources.html. Click on “Bull Barn Facilities” and “Calving Barn Facilities”.