Monoslope cattle barn provides cool benefits

Monoslope barns are a profitable way to feed beef cattle, according to one South Dakota beef producer.

Goodwin Heritage Cattle Inc., located near Goodwin, S.D., has been fattening beef cattle in its sprawling monoslope barns since February 2001. The largest barn is 1,080 feet long by 100 feet deep. The open south walls of the company’s barns soar to 28 feet in height, enabling the structures to catch even the slightest zephyr.

Key Points

A monoslope cattle barn has advantages for a South Dakota feeder.

Cattle finish 30 days earlier than those in outside lots.

Barns are 10 to 15 degrees F cooler in the summer; no heat death loss this year.


“There’s always a breeze in the barns,” says Mike Gibson, barn manager at Goodwin Heritage Cattle. “It’s 10 to 15 degrees cooler in the barns than the outdoors in the summertime, and 10 degrees warmer in the winter.”

Eating in the shade

The north walls of these monoslope barns have curtains that are used to help manage airflow. Another feature is a drive-through alley and feed bunk located next to the north wall. This virtually doubles the barn’s bunk space and allows cattle to eat in the shade during hot weather.

“We continue to put some feed on the southside bunk during the summer,” says Gibson. “But when it gets hot out, the cattle act like the sunlit area is an electric fence. During the wintertime they flock to the southside to enjoy the sunshine.”

The entire barn floor is concrete. Cattle are bedded with crop residues such as wheat straw, cornstalks or soybean vines. A mound of packed bedding is formed at the center of each pen. The perimeters of the pens are scraped clean once a week, and each pen is cleaned out entirely when it’s emptied of cattle.

“There are a lot of pros and cons to using a bedding pack,” says Gibson. “We didn’t pay anything for manure storage and can haul our manure directly to the field and spread it ourselves. On the other hand, we’re looking at over $100,000 annually for bedding. This would have to be balanced against hiring someone to pump out an underground pit.”

Gibson says that the amount of bedding used in his barn works out to roughly one big round bale per head per year.

No death losses from heat

Some Midwestern beef producers endured punishing feedlot death losses when temperatures and humidity levels soared to tropical levels this past summer.

“We saw zero additional death loss in our barns during this summer’s heat wave,” says Gibson. “And because our cattle don’t have to deal with mud, we never see any feet or leg problems. In a test we ran, cattle housed in our barn finished 30 days sooner than an identical group kept in an open feedlot.”

“This type of barn exists in a band that starts at about 100 miles south of Sioux Falls and extends up to about 200 miles north of Sioux Falls,” says Kris Kohl, Extension agricultural engineering specialist at Iowa State University. “Farther south of that band, there’s enough solar energy to evaporate moisture from the manure and keep feedlots relatively dry. That would obviously vary with the number of square feet allotted per animal.”

Gibson says that one thing he would have done differently would have been to coat the barn’s ceiling with spray foam insulation as soon as the structure was completed.

“The roof began to develop pinholes after a few years, so we had the ceiling power washed and covered with a layer of sprayed foam insulation,” he says. “Other than that, there isn’t a thing I would change about our barns.”

Nelson writes from Volga, S.D

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Good fit: Kris Kohl: Extension agricultural engineering specialist at Iowa State University, says monoslope barns are a good fit in an area 100 miles south to 200 miles north of Sioux Falls.

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Happy: Mike Gibson, barn manager, says he’d only change one thing about their barns. He would have insulated the underside of the roofs with spray foam.

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Sprawling barn: This 1,080-by-100-foot monoslope barn at Goodwin Heritage Cattle Inc. located near Goodwin, S.D., lets cattle inside finish earlier than those outside.

This article published in the October, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.