PARK, Kan. — A lame animal is a costly animal, so it makes sense financially and for the animal’s welfare to keep it healthy. Based on a need by a cattle feeder, a product was created on a farm near Park and has worked to keep livestock from slipping, falling and breaking legs.
“With the price of cattle, demand is good,” said Dale Goetz, who designed rubber mats out of used tires and has been keeping cattle standing upright as a result. “We have more orders than we can get done. We’re trying to double production to keep up with demand.”
Double D Family Mat Co. began in 1995 making doormats, using tire sidewalls and discarding the tread. Goetz said a cattleman from St. Francis, Kan., had a feedlot with concrete that was too slick for the cattle to walk on.
“He heard we made the doormats and wondered if we could make something for his cattle to walk on,” Goetz said. Those discarded treads found a valuable use. He took the rubber to the feedlot and the cattle that were slipping 60 to 70 percent before were safe on the new mats.
“We watched a thousand go through and not one fell down,” Goetz said. “We could see it had excellent traction.”
Making use of what had been scrap materials has led to a thriving small business for Goetz. He has four employees and when needed pulls workers from his farming operation to help with the mats. The mats get used leading to squeeze chutes, in walkways, on scales, indoors and outside. They have also been used in hog facilities, in livestock trailers and at sale barns in the sale ring. The mats have been tried at packing plants, including IBP, Excel and National, he said.
“You can’t have a crippled animal,” he said. “At a packing plant, they can’t process any downed animal.”
The mats are in feedlots through the country and have been shipped to Canada, Hawaii and even Australia. Goetz has a few U.S. sales representatives and dealers.
“They’re in feedlots everywhere. Cowboys start talking and we’re in business,” Goetz said.
He’s also received good references from animal advocate Temple Grandin.
“Animals tend to panic if they slip even a little bit,” she wrote in a report on non-slick flooring. “If cattle are constantly agitated while standing in a race, stun box or restraining chute, this is often due to slipping.”
The tire treads, minus the sidewalls, are woven together into a tight pattern and secured on the edges with stainless steel bolts, washers and nuts. Goetz said 75 percent of their cattle mats are custom made to a needed size.
The production goes through about 500 tires a week and also can use baler belting. Double D will ship out at least a semi-trailer load of mats every week. Summers used to be a slow time, Goetz said, but not anymore. Orders have been six weeks behind.
When customers tell Goetz they need mats right away but hear there’s a six-week wait, they will plead for speed, he said, because they’ll have had a couple broken legs and know the mats will justify the expense.
“The mats will pay off in a big yard in a day,” he said.