March 16, 2020
A bedding fee of $10 per head will be implemented this year for Missouri State Fair beef cattle exhibitors only. It will be used to offset costs from a cattle barn bedding project.
Missouri State Fair officials had been looking at options to cover the rising costs associated with disposal of used livestock bedding. The Missouri State Fair Commission discussed many possibilities, including raising 4-H, FFA and open livestock entry fees. The idea ignited an online petition asking fair officials to find the funds to cover expenses somewhere other than increasing fees for exhibitors.
The commission decided to focus on one area of concern — the cattle barns. It voted to move forward with a $33,000 pilot project. Funding for the project will come from the fair, donors and exhibitors.
Problems in the barn
“We need the sand out of cattle barns,” says Mark Wolfe, Missouri State Fair director. Unlike smaller barns, cattle barns do not have concrete. Instead, there is 8 inches of lime and 6 inches of sand on top. Wolfe says it is graded up to 2% slope to allow for drainage. It was put in place long before he led the fair.
“They thought it was a good base bedding,” he explains. “It was easier to control the growth of pathogens than other bedding, but it needs to be cleaned and replaced.” Plus, exhibitors began to complain about the sand getting into cattle hair and ruining clippers.
So, Wolfe started looking for alternatives, and he found some within the state.
The first part of the pilot project is to remove the sand and put in its place a compacted lime base. Wolfe says this process is in progress. On top of that will sit a Missouri-based product.
Premium mulch bedding from Missouri Mulch, out of New Florence, will be used in each cattle stall during the state fair. The mulch will come from scrap pieces of white oak trees used to make wine barrel staves. The fair will purchase the bedding for exhibitors.
At the end of the fair, Bluebird Compositing, based in Fulton, will pick up and haul the used mulch to be made into organic compost, which, in turn, will be used to fertilize the white oak trees that make up the bedding mulch.
The life cycle of the mulch is fascinating, Wolfe adds, and shows real efforts in agricultural stewardship and doing what’s best for the fair, exhibitors and the environment.
Wolfe credits partners such as Chad Sayre with Allstate Consultants LLC from Columbia, Mo., the Missouri State Fair Foundation, Missouri 4-H, Missouri FFA and other livestock associations for making the project possible.
Sayre donated his and his company’s time to work with the various partners to formulate the pilot project plan. Anticipated costs for the pilot project are estimated at $33,000 a year. The Missouri State Fair Commission approved a plan to divide the costs into thirds.
The Missouri State Fair Foundation is sponsoring the costs associated with the composting (about $11,000), and the fair will pay about $11,000 to support cattle exhibitors.
Dairy cattle, which show toward the end of the fair, will still be allowed to bring in their own straw to place on top of the mulch bedding. Wolfe said that all cattle exhibitors will be required to keep their bedding clean and trash free, so that it can be made into compost.
The Missouri State Fair contributed to this article.
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