Agricultural Flooring

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Information in this document has been gathered from the OMAFRA, Ag Canada, Cornell University, Equipment suppliers and Industry Professionals.

Slat Floor

Concrete Slats

Slat floors allow manure and wastewater to pass through the floor either directly into a storage tank or a gutter system that will carry the manure away.  This reduces the amount of bedding and labour required by allowing the manure to be handled as a liquid. Slat floors that are on a deep pit system that are more than one slat wide require concrete post and beams under the floor to support the slats across the width of the barn.

Slat strength (and price) will vary depending on the intended use, hog slats will have a much lower strength requirement than a slat in a beef barn. Beef slats are sometimes designed so that they can be driven on. Typically finishing barns and beef barns are built over the storage pit (deep pit) while most dairy barns and some pig barns are built with a manure collection system and a central lagoon outside of the building.

Slats for farrowing and weaning are typically cast iron, plastic, fiberglass or rubberized steel that has narrow spacings that prevent piglet feet from becoming stuck in gaps. The surface of non-concrete slats is gentle on the sow’s skin and insulates piglets from conduction heat loss.

Poultry Slats

Layer, broiler breeder and pullet operations all utilize slated floors. For caged animals, the slatted floor would refer to the flooring of the cage. Manure can fall through the flooring into either a storage pit/removal belt or a flush gutter. In some non-cage systems, the floor is either partially or fully slatted to allow manure fall to whatever collection and storage system is underneath. Slats for poultry are typically wire, plastic or wood construction.

Concrete Floor

Concrete is a versatile material, and the most common material used for flooring in agricultural buildings. With proper forms, complex geometries can be formed such as those needed for dairy and swine facilities. If desired, concrete can be finished so that it is very easy to clean and sanitize.

Floors should always slope away from feed bunks, resting areas, and milking equipment. Even the smallest of slopes will drain water, but any surface irregularities or manure will obstruct water.

Recommended Slopes of Concrete Agriculture Canada[i]

Area Use Slope
Dairy cattle feed bunk, platforms and alleys 1:25

 

Dairy cattle holding area 1:50 slopped away from milking area
Dairy cattle tie-stall barn Equal to slope of milk pipeline towards milk house.
Dairy cattle ramps 1:3 max
Swine 1:16 – 1:25
Sheep and goat feed bunk and waterer apron 1:25

 

Floor Slope Specifications for Various Cow Areas Frequented on a Dairy Farm. Cornell University [ii]
     
Cow Frequented Area Range Optimum
Parlor Cow Decks & Exit Area 1 to 3 percent 1.5 percent
Parlor Holding Area 1.5 to 6 percent 2 to 3 percent
Feedline & Free stall Alleys 1 to 4 percent 1.5 to 3 percent
Flushed Alleys 1 to 4 percent 3 percent

“The maximum slope in any cow transfer lane or walkway should not exceed 6 percent. If specific circumstances require that walkways must be greater that 6 percent to create a connection between two areas, install 6 to 8-inch steps placed at least 3 feet apart. The treads may be sloped no more than 1.5 percent to help achieve the required elevation change.” – Cornell University

 

A general rule of thumb is to use a minimum 25 MPa concrete with 6% air entrainment.

Finishes

For hoofed animals, floor finish is a significant detail. Floors that are too smooth pose just as much of a health hazard as those that are overly abrasive. The primary concern with smooth floors is that they are slippery when wet, particularly in high traffic areas and around corners. With highly abrasive floors, hoof injury, lameness and avoidance can afflict livestock.

Dry Finishes

After a floor is finished and troweled, ½ inch x ½ inch groves can be cut into the slab. The grooves are usually on a square or angled grid, spaced 4 to 5 inches between cuts. This provides an adequate nonabrasive area for the hoof for step on, while providing a lip that will catch the hoof if it starts slipping. It is advised to orient the grooves perpendicular to the direction the cow’s foot is most likely to slip. In water flushed barns, grooves need to run parallel to the flow of water to ensure that manure can be effectively removed. In dairy barns a trowel finished floor with diamond grooves cut into the concrete after it is cured is a popular option.

Surface milling is a process where a cutter textures the entire surface of the floor. This results in uniform traction across the entire floor surface instead of the “slip and catch” traction that grooving provides. Surface milling can be applied to old floors where traction has deteriorated.

Wet Finishes

These finishes are applied when the concrete is still workable, this makes these finishes more economical, however significant skill is needed to ensure that they are done in the short time frame when the concrete conditions are ideal. On a large pour it may be difficult for a concrete finisher to guarantee uniform quality across the barn.

Wet grooving has the aim is to produce a result like that of dry cut grooves by scraping through the concrete while it is still workable. Typically, there is great variability in doing this and the edges of the grooves can pull up above the finished surface. These will harden into burrs that can harm hooves if not physically removed. One method of “seasoning” a concrete floor after it is to back drag a loader bucket across the floor to remove burrs.

Broom finishes can vary in texture depending on the broom used and provide a simply and cost-effective finish for areas needing high traction. Ensure the finish runs with the slope so that drainage is not impeded. This finish can be very abrasive until it begins to wear down and can cause significant hoof injury if done incorrectly.

Rolled finishes can be applied with a “jitterbug” which leaves a rounded raised texture in semi-cured concrete. It is essential that the concrete is of a consistency that allows it to be squeezed between the rolls but not wet enough to stick to the roller. If sticking occurs the roller will leave sharp edges across the floor that must be removed.

A neutral texture can be achieved by not finishing the floor further than floating. Floating is the first finishing pass after the concrete has been leveled out by a screed. It won’t be as slippery as the mirror like finish that a power trowel leaves, however, it can still pose a risk to cattle.

Various stamped finishes can be achieved with textured forms, or by pushing angle iron into wet concrete. These are typically labour intensive and not in widespread use.

Coverings

Rubberized floor mats usually made from recycled tires can be used in high traffic areas or throughout the entire barn. Available in continuous rolls, interlocking or “area rug” formats. It is common to use rubber mats in high stress areas where a slip could panic livestock such as coming out of a squeeze chute. These mats will be placed on concrete slabs and are usually lagged into the concrete floor to restrict movement.

Dry shake coatings are applied to uncured concrete and consist of three-parts anti-slip aggregate such as aluminum oxide and one-part Portland cement. This mixture applied to the surface of the floor and troweled to embed it into the floor. It is extremely abrasive and should only be used in critical areas (chutes and parlours) but not where continual access is permitted.

Epoxy coatings are popular for cow comfort and traction in parlours but are also excellent for human comfort and cleanliness required in parlour pits, egg facilities, milk houses and bio secure shower-in shower-out facilities. The smooth surface that is very acid resistant has been used to coat feed mangers. Cost is relatively high and long curing times limit the use of epoxy on all barn surfaces.

Constructed-in-place rubber flooring like those used in athletic running tracks and in equine facilities is starting to be used seen in Dairy Barns. In this system ground post-consumer rubber is combined with a resin and is cured in place.

Earthen Floors

Earthen floors are popular for pack barns that are used mainly in winter months. A well compacted clay base and adequate bedding is necessary to handle manure moisture. Earthen floors cannot be used for broiler barn floors in Ontario as explicitly stated in the CFO’s policies.

Earthen floors are the most economical option; however they are nearly impossible to disinfect and require bedding to keep them from becoming muddy.

Hybrid

One hybrid that is popular is to use slatted floors or concrete scrape alleys in conjunction with a bedded pack. This saves on bedding and keeps the animals at a constant height relative to the feed bunk as the pack grows between cleaning out the barn.

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[i] (Canada, 1988)

[ii] (Gooch, 2012)