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Bedding Pack "Chisel" Keeps Cattle Bedding Dry
Ripping through free-stall bedding keeps David Hoover's 50-cow dairy herd dry, warm and healthy. The skid steer-mounted, bedding pack chisel mixes and aerates chopped hay, straw and manure to make a heated bed for cattle through the winter and near perfect compost by spring.
"When you chisel the bedding pack twice a day, it stays soft, and it leaves a less favorable environment for pathogens," says Hoover. "I feel I have less mastitis problems with the herd as well."
Hoover designed the chisel to pull through the manure pack as the skid steer backs across it. The 6 by 9-ft. rectangular frame was fabricated from 3 by 4-in., 1/4-in. wall steel tubing. Two additional 6-ft. lengths are welded front to rear to reinforce the frame. Two ranks of 18-in. teeth cut from snowplow blade edges bolt to pieces of angle iron that weld to the frame.
Three teeth are mounted frame side, farthest from the skid steer with two mounted on the closer side. Quick attach arms extend the frame and teeth about 2 ft. out from the skid steer.
"The teeth are 8 in. wide at the top and taper to a point," says Hoover. "They're spaced at 2-ft. intervals, and are offset."
A 15-degree sideways tilt to the teeth angles lift bedding up and to the side, while tips angle toward the skid steer at 8 to 10 degrees to help pull them into the pack. The angle also transfers weight to the skid steer wheels for greater traction just when it's most needed. Hoover suggests a minimum of 55 hp is needed to pull the teeth through the pack.
The dairyman prefers to bed his cattle with low-quality, old hay, noting that it's less expensive than straw and has more nutrient value. "Every ton of hay has $60 in fertilizer value, and it cost me less than that as bedding," he explains. "With the hay and manure, the bedding pack has everything needed for good compost but oxygen. We stir that in when we chisel it."
After the herd returns to pasture in the spring, Hoover continues to chisel the pack daily for several weeks. Once it has completed the composting process, it's ready to spread on the garden and pastures, he says.
"I pick it up, and it's rich and black, just a friable compost that is more like soil than manure," says Hoover.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, David Hoover, 1045 State Route #14A, Penn Yan, N.Y. 14527 (ph 315 536-6747).

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2010 - Volume #34, Issue #3