No more mud
Randy, Kevin and Larry Schultz are back in control of their cattle enterprise.
The McLoed, N.D., brothers have 600 cow-calf pairs and a feedlot. The Schultzes have struggled in recent years with a high water table and excessively muddy cattle pens. They relocated their feedlot several times to drier ground, but the water kept rising. They also changed calving and weaning dates in unsuccessful attempts to get their cattle out of the mud during the high-stress times. Often, they sold calves before they wanted to because the feedlot was too muddy. They couldn’t even think about finishing cattle.
Two years ago, they built a 42-by-546-foot bedding pack hoop barn to feed cattle in. It’s a three-sided barn with 6-foot-tall concrete walls, a canvas roof and sidewall, and steel-sided end walls. A concrete bunkline, pad and feed alley run the length of the open wall. The pens are bedded with cornstalks and cleaned several times a year. Manure is stockpiled on a containment pad until it can be spread on their cropland. There’s no manure runoff from the site. Everything is contained and kept away from ground and surface water.
• Hoop barn gets high marks from North Dakota feeder.
• Cattle are more comfortable in the winter and summer.
• Operators can manage cattle for markets, not the weather.
It cost about $100,000 to prepare the site and $350,000 to build the barn — about twice as much as an outdoor feedlot for the same number of cattle. A Clean Water Fund grant from the U.S. EPA and cost-sharing through the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program covered about $175,000 of the costs.
The Schultzes have backgrounded calves in the barn, used it for calving and fattened cull cows in it. They and the cattle don’t have to fight mud anymore. The building keeps the cattle drier and out of the wind in the winter and provides shade to keep them more comfortable in the summer.
They’re also saving a significant amount of money on fertilizer by being able to stockpile manure.
“Recent soil test results show that we are saving about 70% on potash and phosphate fertilizer purchases for our irrigated corn. We spread about 1½ tons of manure to the acre on 130 acres! That’s a very nice side benefit from the barn,” Randy says.
“The barn has given us back so many options,” Kevin says. “We can manage our cattle for the market again and not the weather or the condition of the feedlot.”
“It’s been a godsend,” adds Larry. “It’s made things easier on the cattle and easier on us.”The brothers say they might erect another one someday.
This article published in the June, 2012 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.