Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Comparing soil and pond ash feedlot pen surfaces for environmental management

item Woodbury, Bryan
item Eigenberg, Roger
item Nienaber, John - Jack

Submitted to: American Society of Agri Engineers Special Meetings and Conferences Papers
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/16/2007
Publication Date: 6/20/2007
Citation: Woodbury, B.L., Eigenberg, R.A., Nienaber, J.A. 2007. Comparing soil and pond ash feedlot pen surfaces for environmental management. In: Proceedings of American Society of Agri Engineers Special Meetings and Conferences Papers, Jun 17-20, 2007, Minneapolis, MN. Paper no. 074070. Available:

Interpretive Summary: Cattle fed in pens surfaced with soil create a mixture of soil and manure that needs to be removed to keep the pen and animals clean. Removing this material is expensive because of the amount of soil it contains. Pond ash, a by-product coal-fired electrical generation, was used to surface four feedlot pens. Material collected from pond ash pens was compared to soil pens after feeding cattle for 85 days. There was much less material removed from the pens surfaced with pond ash than pens surfaced with soil. No material needed to be replaced in the pond ash pens, but a substantial amount was needed in the soil surface pens.

Technical Abstract: Hauling soil/manure out and fill-soil in to maintain adequate feedlot pen surfaces is time consuming and expensive. Pond ash (PA), a by-product from coal-fired electrical generation has very good support qualities even when wet. Four pens of an eight pen series, each with dimensions of 7.3 m by 20.7 m, were excavated to a depth of 0.5 m and returned to grade with PA. The remaining four pens were not altered. Eight heifers were housed in each pen for approximately 85 days. Following the feeding cycle, animals were removed and the pens cleaned to approximately the same surface condition. Collected feedlot surface materials (FSM) were piled in the center of each pen. Samples were taken from each pile and mixed in a plastic tub. A 1 kg sample was removed for proximate analysis which included moisture, total solids (TS), volatile solids (VS), and total ash. Total mass (TM) of material removed from each pen was determined gravimetrically using a truck scale. Analysis indicates PA pens had a 70% reduction in TM when compared to the soil surface (SS) pens. Though the mass of VS removed was similar between the two surface materials, the PA pen percent VS was nearly twice that of the SS pens. The difference between the two FSM is the amount of ash (i.e. soil) contained in the SS pens. The FSM from the SS pens contained nearly four times more ash than PA pens. Additionally, SS pens required an average 11,000 kg of fill to return the surface to original grade, while the PA pens did not require any fill. The data set is limited and additional evaluations are required before more definitive conclusions can be drawn; however, analysis indicates nearly 14 times more material handled for SS pens when compared to PA pens.

Last Modified: 06/23/2017
Footer Content Back to Top of Page