Everything that goes into your dairy system, must come out. For every ton of sand that you put in the free stalls, that same sand must come out. Setting aside the high cost of buying, moving, bedding, and removal of sand bedding (see next page for financial impact), the biggest cost of sand involves what sand does to your soil over time. Calculate your own impact with our worksheet.
Stewardship of the land has long been a core value of farmers. The land provides, so farmers care for the land for generations. What dairy producers may not consider is how the spreading of sand may be causing irreversible damage to the land itself.
Changing loam soil (40% sand) to sandy loam soil (60% sand)
Loam soil holds more water and nutrients than sandy loam soil. Loam soil isn’t as prone to crusting. According to an estimate by the Department of Soil Science, College of Agriculture & Life Science at UW-Madison, if an acre of loam soil is plowed 6 2/3” deep it will take 214 tons of sand to permanently change the soil from loam soil to sandy loam soil. If vertical tillage practices are applied at 3 1/3”, it will take just 107 tons of sand to permanently change the soil.
Your land may be changing
If you are spreading sand, you could be damaging your soil and its future yield potential in just a generation. We have calcluated in the figure at left the number of years of spreading it takes to change loam soil to sandy loam based on 50 lbs. of sand added per stall per day. Is this sustainabile to you?