We have been getting a lot of calls from producers wondering what can be done about the dust for when they bring their cattle home from pasture. The following is what we have been discussing.
The most important thing is that your pens are kept up well. The more uncompacted fecal build up, the more potential for dust.
Pens should be scraped regularly. If the pens can’t be cleaned, the manure should be piled toward the back of the pen and kept at roughly 30% moisture.
The first and most obvious thing to add to a dry lot to control dust is water, but don’t waste your time doing this if you have more than 1 inch of uncompacted manure.
Water can be applied either with a sprinkler or a water truck to make the surface of the pen between 20-25% moisture. You should do a trial run a couple times before bringing the cattle home so that you know how much water needs to be applied to decrease dust but not increase mud.
Using water does have its consequences though; increased pen humidity, increased flies and increased odor can occur.
Bedding with straw can help keep dust down by absorbing moisture and decreasing the amount of dust that the hooves drag up when cattle are walking. Straw also is relatively durable and provides a comfortable place to lay.
The more cattle that are in the pens, the more dust can be held down with urine and feces. Obviously, this is not benign either as an increase in stocking density can lead to an increase in disease transmission, more mud when it rains, decreased average daily gain, and problems with inadequate bunk space.
There aren’t any chemicals that have been shown to be effective in dry lot dust management. Not only are they more expensive than water, they also may not be safe for your cattle long term.
Calcium chloride is the most common one that I have been asked about. Calcium chloride has to have 20-80% humidity in order for it to be effective and may decrease the value of the manure.
Make sure that the gravel alleys and roads around your place are not leading to a significant amount of dust production.
Some people use waste petroleum oils, asphalt and coarse gravel to help decrease the dust made by roads. Planting tall vegetation along the edges of the feedlots and adding windbreaks may help too.
Some of our producers are asking if they need to change anything with their vaccination protocol in order to account for the dust.
Our answer so far has been, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Go with what you usually do in the fall that has worked in years past. Instead of changing vaccines, change your management and try to make your feedlots as dust free as you can with the above ideas.
Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is Associate Veterinarian at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic in Madison, South Dakota