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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Nutrition, Growth and Physiology » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #287474

Title: Effect of pond ash on pen surface properties

item Woodbury, Bryan
item Eigenberg, Roger
item PARKER, DAVID - West Texas A & M University
item Spiehs, Mindy

Submitted to: Transactions of the ASABE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/15/2013
Publication Date: 3/31/2013
Citation: Woodbury, B.L., Eigenberg, R.A., Parker, D.B., Spiehs, M.J. 2013. Effect of pond ash on pen surface properties. Transactions of the ASABE. 56(2):769-775.

Interpretive Summary: Removing manure and replacing soil to maintain pen surfaces is expensive. An ash material left over from electrical generation using coal has demonstrated excellent qualities and may provide a better surface for housing cattle. A study was conducted to determine if pens surfaced with ash material were better than traditional pens surfaced with soil. Four pens of an eight pen series were modified to have an ash material surface while the other four pens were unaltered. Eight beef cattle were housed in each pen to simulate typical use. Surfacing pens with this ash material reduced in half the amount of manure material that needed to be removed to maintain pen quality. This reduction was achieved by limiting the amount of soil that was mixed with the manure material and reducing erosion of the pen surface. This produced a material that was much more concentrated in nutrients and energy. This concentrated material reduced hauling costs and increased the distance it could be transported to be applied as a fertilizer to fields. Also, the amount of energy the material contained was acceptable to be burned to produce electricity. Using manure as a fuel to produce electricity reduces the over-all amount of greenhouse gases produced and improves air quality of the electrical generation plant.

Technical Abstract: Maintaining adequate feedlot pen surfaces is expensive. Pond ash (PA), a coal-fired electrical generation by-product, has good support qualities. A study was conducted comparing the performance of pond ash (PA) surfaced pens with soil surface (SS) pens. Four pens of an eight pen series with dimensions of 7.3 m by 20.7 m were excavated to a depth of 0.5 m and resurfaced with PA. Eight heifers were housed in each pen (19 m2/head) for four feeding cycles that ranged from 73 days to 172 days. Following the feeding cycles, animals were removed; pens were cleaned and filled soil back to original grade. A 1 kg sub-sample was removed from each pen to analyze for total mass (TM), total solids (TS), volatile solids (VS), percent volatile solids (VS%), moisture and ash content. Higher heating value (HHV) was estimated using the VS% and moisture. Surfacing pens with PA reduced the TM by 35%, TS by 34%, and ash content by 46%. The PA increased VS% by 70% and higher heating value by 75%. Also, the PA pens needed only ¼ the amount of fill material as the soil surface pens. However, there were no differences measured in the total amount of VS removed. Harvested feedlot surface material from the PA pens was much more nutrient and energy dense. The increased density, improved the economics of transport and handling, and allowed for energy recovery. Also, the PA pens were less erodible and required much less fill-material to maintain pen surfaces.