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Published September 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

As hard as concrete

By mixing an all-natural product made in Minnesota with heavy clay, Richardton farmer Cal Hoff thinks he might have an alternative to concrete feedlots that’s cheaper, easier to fix and as hardy as concrete.

By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press

By mixing an all-natural product made in Minnesota with heavy clay, Richardton farmer Cal Hoff thinks he might have an alternative to concrete feedlots that’s cheaper, easier to fix and as hardy as concrete.

“Basically what it is is heavy clay, found in the hills, and you mix it with this product Base One,” Hoff said. “You’d absolutely think it was concrete. You oil it and chip seal it and looks like asphalt.”

Hoff said he put this product on a 15- by 400-foot area on his farm in July and said it will be useful in the feedlot areas where the cattle go to get feed from the troughs.

“I was looking for an alternative to concrete in feedlots and concrete costs three times what this cost,” Hoff said. “My thought process was that every farm has some heavy clay they can get somewhere that would work with it in this part of the state.”

Hoff has a farm about four miles north of Richardton.

Dakota West Resource Conservation & Development Coordinator Jared Andrist said the mixture will be tested through the winter and if it holds up, could be something other producers could use.

“It looks like it’s going to be really useful in heavy-use areas,” Andrist said.

Hoff said grant money was used to help fund the project. He’s been researching the project for about a year and put down the mixture in July.

“It probably takes about two weeks to cure, we let it get hard and then we oiled it and chip sealed it,” Hoff said. “One of the neatest things about this is it’s patchable.”

Hoff said a contractor from Onsite Improvements Inc. of Dickinson helped do the project.

“Pretty much the same process they did in the feedlot they use on gravel roads,” Hoff said.

The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center had a similar research project, where they demonstrated the various aspects of using coal ash to stabilize feedlots.

The center found it improved animal weight gains during wet cycles and it effectively stabilizes soils in feed lots in a way that is environmentally friendly and economical, according to a UND Web site.

Hoff said he’s pretty sure it won’t crack or fall apart and has been running heavy trucks over it to keep it compacted.

“We’re just testing it to see if this is something that can save producers money when they’re building a feedlot,” Hoff said. “As far as I know, this product hasn’t been used before to do this.”

Andrist and Hoff have been working together to document the project and hope to have a clear view of what the product can do by next spring.

“I think it could be a cost-saving measure,” Andrist said.

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