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New skidloader attachment shakes gallons of water from sand

PD Editor Karen Lee Published on 31 December 2013
new skidloader


Scoop. Dump. Wait. Repeat.



That has been the tried-and-true method for drying sand on dairy farms. While successful, it can take weeks or months to get a pile of sand dry enough to re-use for bedding.

A recently developed skidloader attachment is looking to shorten that timeframe. In just 15 to 40 seconds, the Sand Calf shakes gallons and gallons of liquid out of wet sand.

The attachment is the brainchild of Jesse Ray, an engineer and designer of manure storage systems who spent a lot of time watching concrete be poured into walls. In that process, Ray noticed when the concrete was over-vibrated, the liquid would rise to the top.

“It made me think of all the farms that have sand-laden manure or manure-laden sand that needed a way to remove additional water,” Ray says.

He first tested his theory by placing wet sand in a 5-gallon bucket and shaking it with a concrete vibrator. From there, he installed an industrial-sized vibrator on a skidloader bucket and watched the water rise to the top.


To develop the drainage system, he began drilling holes into the bucket but learned that just the two sides and the bottom didn’t provide enough outlets for the water. By adding several bulkheads, Ray was able to create small buckets within one large one. The bulkheads are hollow so the water can enter and drain out the bottom.

Bulkheads in the Sand Calf skidloader attachment

From there it was a matter of adjusting the placement of the vibrator and the vibration frequency, he says.

LS Ray Farm Service LLC officially launched the product in October and offers it in three different sizes – standard, 6-foot and 7-foot. The price of the unit starts at $8,500 and increases based on size.

These units are targeted toward farms with small sand separation systems as well as dairies that can’t do a complete sand separation system but want to separate sand. This could allow those farms to shake sand directly from the manure.

In a single run, this attachment can remove 5 to 7 gallons of fluid from freshly washed sand.


Ray says by reducing the dewatering time of the sand, this can help dairy producers reduce the real estate required to store sand, which reduces the cost of the infrastructure.

“I think our sand dries twice as fast as before,” says Jaime Larson, a dairy producer in Evansville, Wisconsin.

Larson Acres is a family farm milking 2,900 cows, all housed on sand bedding. In 2006, the farm installed its first of two sand separation systems and has been using recycled sand ever since.

A year ago, the farm installed a shaker box to the end of the separation system to dewater the sand.

“It wasn’t a cure-all, but it helped,” Larson says.

As Ray was working with the Larsons on an engineering project, he told them about this skidloader attachment he developed.

The Larsons purchased this attachment to get better-quality sand. After using it for a couple of weeks, Larson says it has been working well so far.

The sand is visibly drier when applied in the stalls for bedding, he says, but notes it is too early to tell how this is affecting milk quality.

Watch a video of the Sand Calf skidloader attachment in action.

Removing liquid from the sand allows air to penetrate the pile, helping it to dry faster. It also removes the food for bacteria within the pile, creating cleaner bedding that should reduce somatic cell counts, mastitis cases and incidences of lameness.

In a home test, Ray measured 100 to 130 percent saturation prior to shaking and found 93 to 95 percent saturation afterward with 5 to 7 percent air space within the sand pile.

Larson says the quality of the sand wasn’t horrible before, but there were times when it was harder to manage, like in the heat of the summer or when the washwater in the separating system was too dirty.

Those problems were more noticeable when the sand wouldn’t dry.

“This (attachment) forces the water out and is added insurance you get the dryness you need,” he says.

Larson figures they are saving $350 to $400 a week with this unit. Before, they averaged one pile of sand a week that wouldn’t dry and would be hauled out to the field. Now they can shake it and re-use that sand instead of having the expenses of lost sand, handling it and hauling it.

While that equates to a six-month payback, Larson says, “The real benefit to us is quality.”

He also says he likes that it is “a nice, simple design. It’s not a complex piece of equipment that’s going to take a lot of maintenance.”

Some producers have expressed concern that by adding time to shake the sand, it will take longer to move it. Larson acknowledges that it does take a little longer to move the sand the first time, but adds that they are now moving the sand half as much as before, so they end up breaking even on time spent moving sand.

They used to move the sand three to four times before bedding with it. Now they are shaking it off the main pile and then moving it once more. On the second move, only the bottom foot of the pile is shaken again.

Depending on the size of the sand grain, it can take 15 to 40 seconds to shake a bucketful of sand. This doesn’t have to be done while sitting still. Once used to the system, Ray says this action can take place while driving the sand from one pile to the next.

In addition to using this after mechanical separation systems, Ray tested the attachment on two 200-foot sand separation lanes to compare a pile of sand that was shaken versus a pile of sand scooped straight from the lane. “Ours stacked immediately. You could walk and stand on the pile. Theirs was a pile of mud,” he says.

While he wasn’t able to test it in cold weather yet, he said it has the potential to remove enough water so the sand pile doesn’t become a huge ice cube in winter. There’s a chance it can get enough water out of the sand to fluff it before freezing, which would allow a bucket to break through.

Ray says this is the first product released in a line of dewatering products. He is developing a 3-yard bucket for an articulating end-loader, as well as an in-line continual-flow dewaterer.

Ultimately, he would like to design full separation and handling systems with a goal to “actively process sand every moment it is not under a cow,” Ray says.

For now, dairy producers looking to cut their sand drying time from weeks and months to just seconds may want to consider adding the Sand Calf to their equipment line. PD

For more information, contact Jesse Ray by email or call (608) 438-3400.

PHOTO: Bulkheads in the Sand Calf skidloader attachment provide additional points of drainage to remove water from recycled sand. Photo courtesy of Jesse Ray.

  • Karen Lee

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The following checklist can be used to determine if this new technology might be a fit for your operation.

1. Are you interested in recycling sand for bedding?

2. Does it take you more than a week to dry recycled sand?

3. Are you moving sand with a skidloader?

4. Would you like to reduce the amount of sand storage required?

5. Is clean bedding important to you?

6. Is dry bedding important to you?

7. Are you looking to improve milk quality?

8. Would you want to reduce incidences of lameness?

If you answered yes to five or more of these questions, this technology may be one for you to consider.