We prefer to work with cattle when we are all on solid footing. Dirt is ideal, easy on hooves and feet. BUT when the dirt gets wet and turns to mud everything changes. Mud is slippery, creating stress for both animals and handlers. It is a lot of work to move when you are fighting to lift your boot out of the muck with every step.
After over 40 years of working with a dirt alley, we have given in during this very wet and muddy fall and are pouring cement.
No more stress of slogging through the mud. But will we like that hard surface? Will it provide good grip for cattle hooves? Larger cattle handling facilities have used cement in alleyways and pens for years; this is certainly not new. Just new to us. So 37 cubic yards of cement (4 loads) and many hours of levelling later we have a cement alley. Progress? Maybe. Time will tell.
We are also shredding flax straw into the pens to help create better footing for the calves. Flax straw does not break down as easily as barley straw; as flax has long tough stem fibres that decay slowly over time. Therefore, flax straw is well suited to firming the ground. To firmer footing!