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Introduction to Floor Tube Scraper Systems

November 3, 2011

There is tremendous interest in floor-tube alley scraper systems. In these systems the wet, sloppy manure that normally accumulates in front of a scraper blade falls through a 2” wide slot and into a sub-floor tube running under the center of each alley. The advantages of this method of cleaning are huge: the cow’s feet are not immersed in wet manure each time the blades passes, resulting in cleaner feet and legs, cleaner udders and stalls that stay clean longer as less manure is tracked into the bed areas.

The original version eliminated the drop-off opening in the floor that typically is located at the end or center of the barn. The design included the use of a special scraper blade with mechanical finger-wheels to help push material down the narrow slot as the scraper blade advanced. Experience with this system has shown that in many cases there could still be an accumulation of manure left at the end of the alley, so the next generation includes a traditional drop-off opening for any dry materials left on the blade at the end of the stroke. With the end delivery opening added, the bulky finger wheel mechanism is no longer required as wet materials easily flow down the centerline slot and the minor amount of dry materials left on the blade is dropped down the opening at the end of the stroke.

While cable alley scrapers have been used in most floor tube systems, Jamesway Farm Equipment has also used the Dura-Chain alley scraper system in this application. The Dura-Chain system is limited to alleys up to 500 feet in length but offers some important advantages in this application. The chain is installed in the tube instead of on top of the floor, thereby keeping the 2” centerline slot completely unobstructed so manure can fall through easily. The wheels and drive unit are mounted in floor pockets, resulting in a very clean and compact installation, and users like the fact that the drive unit is extremely compact and may be located almost anywhere they wish along the end of the barn.

Whether using cable or chain, each alley scraper blade is equipped with a paddle that pushes the manure in the tube forward as the blade advances. In a similar manner to the scraper blades, the under-floor paddle lifts during the return trip so that it does not drag manure in the opposite direction.

When considering whether to install this style of system in your new barn, there are some important considerations to keep in mind: the cross collection gutter at the end or center of the barn must be deep enough to accommodate the discharge from the under-floor tubes; and the floor tubes must be extremely straight and smooth. While some barns have been built with floor tubes poured on site, the results with precast floor tubes have been superior. Precast sections have little to no variation in the 2” wide centerline opening, which is critical to ensure proper operation of the scraper system.

COST vs BENEFIT…Is this the system for your new barn?
While the costs will vary regionally, the budget is approximately $50.00 per running foot for material and totals $60.00 / ft when installation is added. Some quick math shows that a 400 ft barn with 4 scrape alleys totals $96,000.00 extra for the floor tube system. Only you can decide whether the benefits are worth this budget in your new project. Users report that the cow cleanliness is the best of any system, which is easy to understand with the “continuous flow” type of floor cleaning eliminating manure accumulation. Other benefits that are not so obvious include a puddle-free floor as the precast sections serve as a screed point during the floor pouring, which makes it easy for the contractor to stay perfectly on grade throughout the pour. Likewise, improved cable life for the alley scraper may not be apparent, but since the cable is mostly suspended in the air it is not subject to the constant concrete abrasion that happens as it rides on a regular flat floor. The question is always asked: will the cows have healthier feet? Nobody can answer that definitively but it is clear that the under-floor tube system produces the best possible environment to promote healthy feet: clean and dry.



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