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Excerpts from Hoard's Dairymen articles on concrete groovingReprinted by permission from Hoard's Dairyman
Question from reader: We've got a problem with slick concrete after years of scrapping manure. I was wondering what methods are available to roughen it up again. We had some scabbing done years ago that worked pretty well. Unfortunately, we have to scrape it in the same direction that it was scabbled. What other options do you have?
Hoard's Dairyman Answer: This is a common problem with concrete cow alleys, especially those scraped with a metal blade day after day for years. Adding a texture to the surface can improve traction for the cows and provide a more confident footing. A common method used to create "no-slip" surfaces in existing cow alleys include grooving.
In existing concrete, grooves are usually sawn into the surface in a parallel or diamond pattern. Preferred groove size is 3/8 to 1/2 inch wide and 3/8 to 1/2 inch deep. Parallel grooves are typically 3 to 4 inches on center, while the grooves of the diamond pattern are usually 6 to 8 inches on center.
Patterns spaced this way allow the cows to step on at least one groove with every step. Parallel grooves should be oriented parallel with the direction of scraping.
The diamond pattern may provide better traction, in more directions for the cow.
GROOVING HELPS PREVENT COW INJURIES
Many cows are lost every year to injuries from slippery floors. Not too many die from that fall or slide on the free stall barn floor in the barnyard, but many do end up as hamburger in the farm freezer.
Costly milk losses result from cattle reluctant to walk on the slippery alleys to get to the feed bunk. And cows hesitate to mount when in heat because of the fear of falling, lengthening calving intervals.
These all add up to dollars out of your pocket that you can least afford.
How much can you afford to lose before you take action? Would investing in floor grooving boost income on your farm?
When the first free stall barns were built, smooth, slightly sloped floors were a source of pride to the craftsmen who installed them. Farmers liked them because they were easy to clean with scrapers or skid-steer loaders. For a while they caused no problems.
LEARNED THE HARD WAY
Even after it was learned that smooth floors could be hazardous to the health and safety of men and cows, some craftsmen still were reluctant to roughen the surface to make them safer for cattle and people. Ronald Statler, Chambersburg, Pa., had old concrete floors with steep grades which were like glass. Before considering roughening the concrete, Statler and his partner and herdsman, Ray Burkholder, put sand on the floor each day to prevent cow injuries. They did this six years before roughening up the area by scrabbling. With a rented scrabbler and air compressor the concrete was chipped away to make it safer for walking. Equipment rental was about $150 to $200 per day, and it took a couple of days with several people working to complete the job.
People look at this as an alternative because they can do it themselves which, at the time, seems to be cheaper, he added. But, when Statler compares the floors he later had grooved to the area which is scrabbled, he is sure that grooving is the way to go.
GROOVED NEW BARN
The Statler farm is an expansion plan which included a barn addition built in 1975. Cows housed in this barn still must walk over the scrabbled floor in the old barn which now is the holding area for the milking parlor.
The floors in the new 180-by 44 foot barn were grooved with a diamond blade saw with the grooves running the direction of cattle flow in the barn. A 50 by 40 foot area outside also was grooved at that time. Since then, Statler Farms has added another section, with two more rows of stalls. The floor was grooved with a float when the concrete was poured. But Statler isn't very pleased with that.
"The grooves don't clean out well," he says. "If I were to do it again, I would concrete the floor and broom it; then in a couple of years have it sawed."
Statler can tell the difference in his cows since having the floor grooved. There have been fewer cow injuries, the cows are more willing to mount in the barn when they are in heat and the cows move more easily and are not as skittish, he says.
The saw does a neat job. Not only did the scrabbling take more work, it left a lot of debris which needed to be cleaned up.
"I'm sure that the area of the floor that was scrabbled will wear down more over time from scraping," comments Statler.
Statler and Burkholder use a rubber scraper on the back of a tractor to clean the barn, and they like the clean job it does without any interference from the grooves in the floor.
GROOVERS TRAVEL THE COUNTRY
Dick Meyer, Wisconsin, has crews that travel all over the country grooving floors with a diamond cutting blade. They cut straight grooves about a 1/2 inch wide and 3/8 inch deep with three to four grooves to the foot. Grooves run parallel to feed bunks and perpendicular to free stalls. At the corners and in the holding area, they will make cuts in two directions in order to form a diamond shaped pattern.
The grooves catch the cow's foot as she walks to stop her from sliding, but the grooves are not large enough to cause problems with scrapers.
"The only reason to groove floors is to stop cows from slipping," says Duane Green of Green Meadows. At Home Acres Farm in Ryegate, Vt., Bill Nelson had all the floors in his 140 foot free stall barn grooved. The three alleys were grooved with a diamond edged saw the length of the building. In the holding area and corners where cattle are most likely to slip, grooves also were cut diagonally to make a diamond shaped pattern.
Nelson decided to have the grooving done after losing several cows on the slick floors. Since then, he hasn't lost any cattle. Some of Nelson's neighbors have scrabbled their floors, but the local veterinarian is concerned that the scrabbling is too rough for the cows' feet, causing hooves to wear down too much.
Even during severe Vermont winters, Nelson says the grooves still prevent cattle from falling on slick floors. He adds that, had he known the grooving process would have taken as much water as it did, he would have had the fire department's tanker bring in the water needed.
As with any type of work done on the farm, check out the contractor. Ask for references and check them out. Farmers never hesitate to tell which contractors do what they promise and provide a satisfactory job. Costs range from 45 to 70 cents per square foot.