14 June 2002

WOODCHIPS STILL FIND

FAVOUR

The simplicity and cost-

effectiveness of woodchip

corrals will again feature

heavily on the SAC stand

WOODCHIP corrals have proved very popular in Scotland, allowing producers to cut costs of housing cattle in winter.

And although SAC beef specialist Basil Lowman, who developed the system, has been an enthusiastic proponent in recent years, the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of woodchip corrals will again feature on the SAC stand at the Royal Highland Show.

"Labour is becoming increasingly scarce on many livestock farms, with the result that remaining staff are having to work longer and longer hours," says Mr Lowman.

During the winter, a considerable amount of time and money is involved in bedding cattle and in cleaning up after them.

"Outwintering cattle eliminates these jobs but rarely results in labour saving, mainly due to the time taken to feed outwintered cattle. An additional problem of outwintering cattle is the risk of severe poaching, which in extreme cases can lead to subsidy payments being withheld."

An outside woodchip corral offers producers the chance to avoid all these problems, says Mr Lowman.

"The basic principle for a successful corral is that the woodchip bed acts as a digestion chamber so that the dung and urine is broken down, resulting in relatively clean, non-polluting water coming out the bottom."

Potential advantages include low costs, low labour requirement and a better environment for the cattle.

Choice of site is critical. The most important requirement is that it must be free draining.

He points out that there is a lack of scientific data on the efficacy of the woodchip system but experience suggests that there is a limit to the amount of dung and urine an area of chips can digest each day.

Recommendations for space allocation are: dry cows 12sq m; store cattle (300kg) 6sq m; finishing cattle (450kg) 8sq m. These recommended space allowances are at least 50% greater than that for conventionally bedded stock.