Little did Dale Goetz know that his idea for weaving treads from old tires into mats to prevent cattle injuries in high-slip areas at the family’s feedlot would eventually become the footing for Double D Family Mat Shop as well.
He established the mat shop in 1995, at first hand-cutting used tires to make anti-fatigue mats for work areas. After a time, things went so well that they leased the feedlot and set up the mat shop at Park, Kansas, where they now have three children working in the business.
Today they use a machine Goetz invented to strip off the treads precisely and quickly, which are then woven together by hand and fastened at the joints, ends and sides with stainless steel hardware to produce sturdy mats that protect livestock from injury in handling areas. The sidewalls are now a mere byproduct given away as weights for silage covers.
The standard Double D Cattle Mat is a heavy-duty mat woven from steel-belted treads for high-use areas where sure footing not only prevents injuries, but has a calming effect on cattle. A common use is in front of headgates where slips and falls are most apt to happen but operations use them in all sorts of places — alleys of all shapes and sizes, tubs, bud boxes, loading/unloading ramps and in sales rings, says daughter Christin Merwald, who looks after the marketing side of the family business.
The mats were lasting about a year at a packing plant handling 4,000 head per day; however, the company has been able to double the lifetime by sorting out the heaviest treads for packing plants. Merwald estimates a standard Double D Cattle Mat would last about 10 years under normal use at a feedlot and at least 15 years in a cow-calf operation.
Neil Thauberger, cattle manager at JBS Lakeside Feeders, Brooks, Alta., hasn’t had to replace any of the Double D Cattle Mats which they installed 3-1/2 years ago this April. The mats in their hospital barns run 30 feet down straight alleys to the headgate, while the ones in the processing barns stretch 20 feet splitting each way coming out of the chute and for another 15 feet outside the door. Cleaning is as easy as rinsing them down with the firehose at the end of each day.
“All JBS yards use Double D Mats because we follow best practices for beef quality and care and comfort to ensure the best for our cattle,” Thauberger says. “This is a better system by a long shot for the welfare of the cattle than what we had before — rebar for traction and sandboxes for cushioning coming out of the chute.”
The proof is in the noticeable reduction in lameness since installing the mats.
Double D offers a lighter-weight mat made from baler belts that is often the choice for use on scales and in stock trailers. These mats are fastened with stainless steel flat-head carriage bolts and were initially designed for farms with hogs or other small-hoofed livestock.
Customers now include packing plants, beef and bison feedlots and ranches, dairy, hog and other small-livestock farms, auction markets and veterinary clinics in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Both styles come in ready-made sizes of three or four feet wide by, six, eight, 10 or 12 feet long, or six-by-six feet, but most mats are custom made to fit customers’ needs for specific shapes and sizes, Merwald explains. There’s also the option of having three-inch wide flatiron worked into the weave at the ends to help with lifting if necessary or bolting to the floor if desired.
As our issue went to press the company was looking for a dealer in southern Alberta to help customers in Canada measure and order mats to fit their needs.
In the meantime, Canadians can contact the Kansas shop directly for guidance on measuring. Some operations mail in plastic patterns of the exact shapes they need.
Merwald says many people who dropped by the family’s booth at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference viewed the mats as a novel idea. A few felt the mats would also work well in winter as the woven pattern wouldn’t be as slick as the normal surface in their holding areas under snow and freezing cold temperatures.
She says the interest at the Alberta show mirrors an overall trend the family has noticed in recent years. Between new research findings on animal welfare and consumer pressure, producers and packers seem more willing to invest in mats nowadays.
Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University supports the use of the mats for high-traffic areas such as scales, unloading areas and processing facilities.
While most of the large beef-producing businesses in the U.S. have adapted to using mats as a best practice for slick areas in their facilities, Merwald says their sales of Double D mats are now trickling down to mid-sized and small operations.
For more information visit www.ddfamilymats.net/ or call 1-888-377-2879.