A few years ago, Redstone Feeders, DeSmet, S.D. built two three-sided 100 x 1,200 foot monoslope finishing barns.
Some people call them the "Cattle Castles."
The Wilkinson brothers -- Bill, Todd and Ed -- built the barns thinking that the barns would pay off most in the winter, when they protect cattle from the cold and snow.
“The big surprise was the gain we saw in the cattle in the summertime,” Bill Wilkinson said at the feedlot’s recent open house. “We’re getting 4.1-4.2 pounds per head per day in the barns compared to 3.6-3.7 in the outside lots.
In the summer, the temperature in the barn is usually 10-15 degrees lower than in the outside open lots.
“It’s make a big difference in cattle comfort,” Bill says.
Another surprise was how well the feedlot and farming fit together.
Bill and Ed grow mostly winter wheat and corn.
They sell the winter wheat grain for cash and bale the winter wheat straw to bed the cattle.
After harvesting winter wheat, they spread the cattle manure on the stubble.
The following year they plant corn into the wheat stubble and don’t have to add much additional fertilizer.
Later in the year they harvest corn as silage, high moisture corn and grain.
They sell grain to ethanol plants and buy back distillers grains to feed to the cattle.
“Everything is in the circle,” Bill says.
The Wilkinsons hope to build another barn soon.
They also have a methane digester on the drawing board.
They’d like to extract collect the gas from the manure, burn the gas in generators to produce electricity and sell electricity back to their local utility.
There's another circle.