Monoslope barn eases feedings, harsh weather for cattle feedlot
Northeast Iowa farmers Luther and Quentin Schutte have more time on their hands now for family, friends and fun. The father-son duo — in the business of fattening up beef cattle and Holstein steers — recently consolidated four open feedlots into one large steel-roofed total containment barn, saving them a few hours a day in commuting and work time.
The Schuttes’ new 84-by-480-foot mega-monoslope building eliminates their 18-mile roundtrip of daily chores throughout Clayton County. Dad Luther Schutte says he feels good about the convenience factor the new facility creates for his son. “Quentin has a young family, and this new building will allow him to spend more time with his family,” says Luther. “We can come up here and be done with our work in less than an hour. In the past we’d still be driving somewhere checking cattle.”
• Iowa cattle feeders like their move from open feedlots to monoslope building.
• Transitioning open feedlots to total confinement buildings takes planning.
• Large, steel-roofed livestock barn saves time and helps protect environment.
And time savings is just an “icing-on-the-cake” benefit of their new building. Livestock will also be better protected from weather extremes; manure will be contained and managed much better; and the animals will be more comfortable and will most likely gain weight at a higher rate.
Total manure containment
Another major reason the Schuttes chose to consolidate their cattle feeding operation into one contained facility was their inability to keep manure from running off their open feedlots. “Manure would run off into our crop fields,” says Luther. “I knew it wasn’t good.”
To prevent runoff, the Schuttes now scrape manure from the monoslope building floor weekly and haul it to a contained concrete-based manure pit nearby. Then they can apply the manure to their cropland as needed according to a newly implemented comprehensive nutrient management plan, or CNMP.
Other benefits include:
• More ventilation. Luther says his cattle struggled with weather extremes in their open feedlots. With only small shelter-like buildings, he was even forced to remove the top of one of the buildings during one summer hot streak to protect his livestock from overheating. The new monoslope includes a retractable curtain that allows summer breezes to cool the livestock and provide wind protection during winter.
• Better production. Little definitive research indicates contained livestock gain weight at a far greater rate than open-feedlot livestock. The Schuttes moved their cattle into their new home in September, so it’s far too early for them to produce any rate-of-gain conclusions. However, most livestock producers believe it is just common sense that less stressed, more comfortable animals will feed better than animals stressed by extreme weather conditions, sickness or disease.
• Other features. At more than 40,000 square feet, the Schuttes’ monoslope cattle building is believed to be the largest of its kind in Clayton County.
Other features of the building include six 14-by-80-foot pens with cornstalk bedding. Each pen can hold up to 150 head. There are water drinking tanks that sit between pens, so tanks can be accessed by livestock from either side. And 18 self-feeding units were recycled from the feedlots, saving as much as $100,000 by using these existing feeders.
Financial and technical help
The Schuttes received financial and technical assistance through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Division of Soil Conservation for the installation of their new building.
Through the NRCS-administered Envi-ronmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, the Schuttes received a payment at a per-animal rate to build their total containment livestock building. Through EQIP, NRCS provides funding to farmers to install or implement structural and management practices to treat resource concerns on eligible agricultural land.
The Schuttes also received a low-interest loan through the State Revolving Fund, which includes a handful of water quality loan programs. The Schuttes qualified for the Livestock Water Quality Program for projects that prevent, minimize or eliminate nonpoint source pollution of Iowa’s rivers and streams from animal feeding operations.
For more information about the SRF, visit www.iowasrf.com.
Johnson is public affairs specialist for USDA-NRCS in Iowa.
This article published in the January, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.