Woodchip Pads for Cattle

Improved design and management of woodchip pads for sustainable outwintering of livestock

Project number:                    72601

Lead contractor:                   ADAS UK Ltd

Partners:                                 LINK:

ADAS, Westlakes Scientific Consulting Ltd, AJ and JM Cottle, MDC, EBLEX, HCC, IGER, NBA, DM and SL Simmons, South West Forest

Start & end date:                   01 November 2007 – 29 February 2011

Actulal end date:                   30 June 2011 


The Problem:

Woodchip pads are a potential way to reduce housing and bedding costs for both beef and sheep producers.  However, issues have been raised about the environmental impact of woodchip pads in terms of run-off.  This project is also dealing with gaseous emissions.


Project Aims:

The aim of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of woodchip pads at providing a reduced-cost over-wintering system for cattle, with significantly reduced pollution risk to air and water and with health and welfare benefits to livestock.



Measurements taken from experimental woodchip pads and commercial pads in use on farms.



Surface evaporative loss (ca. 1.1mm/day) was shown to have a considerable impact on the volume of effluent draining from these pads. With only a small proportion of nutrients (5-10% of N and P), in the pad effluent and the major part retained within the woodchips, the research has provided clear evidence to show that woodchip pad effluent should be classified as “dirty water rather than slurry, as in the current regulations. Ammonia emissions were shown to be highly dependent on wind velocities; median estimates suggest a potential 40% reduction in emissions when compared to emission factors applied to livestock housed on a slurry based management system. Fine grade chips (1-2cm) appear the best compromise for animal welfare and the resulting dirty chip appears well suited to grassland application without a need for pre-treatment (e.g. composting). Animal performance (e.g. of daily liveweight gain) on the pads was maintained throughout.


Planned Activity:

  • 6 farmer/advisor on farm meetings have already been delivered.
  • There have been a number of press articles associated with the project.
  • The work has been presented in or at 15 scientific publications, conferences or workshops.
  • A summary factsheet has been produced and a more detailed farmer leaflet is being produced providing guidance on building and managing woodchip pads.
  • A woodchip costing guide has also been produced to help people planning a new project.