Timely information for beef producers

With the rising popularity of feeding cattle in buildings as opposed to open feedlots, and the challenge of raising cattle, two new publications are available from Midwest Plan Service. They are “Cattle Feeding Buildings in the Midwest” and “Cow-Calf Production in the U.S. Corn Belt.”

“Cow-Calf Production in the U.S. Corn Belt” recently received a Blue Ribbon Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. The publication has 22 chapters with more than 40 drawings, photos, examples and case studies, as well as management tips and insight.

Topics include farmstead planning, fences, gates, lots and housing, harsh environments, handling facilities, manure management, feeds and feed storage, forage management, body condition scoring and reproduction, nutritional management, calving management, herd health, mortality management, pests, and value-added marketing.

“Cattle Feeding Buildings in the Midwest” is a 16-page publication with information to help cattle producers make decisions about building construction options, helpful due to the increased availability of buildings. Included are graphics such as drawings, photos, tables and current topics, such as monoslope vs. gable roof, bedded vs. concrete slats, manure handling, bedding, and building layouts.

Trends in beef production

Iowa State University Extension beef specialist Beth Doran says “Cattle Feeding Buildings in the Midwest” is particularly timely, with the number of beef producers in the Midwest and Iowa who’ve constructed or are considering moving to confinement buildings.

“We’ve seen a lot of this trend in the past five years,” she says, noting the difference in regions, particularly in northwest Iowa. “More wide monoslope buildings are being built.”

This differs from southern Iowa, where hoop buildings are more popular, partly due to their affordability — about half of what a monoslope building costs, Doran notes. In addition, availability of suppliers has an effect, with more narrow monoslope buildings being constructed in northeast Iowa.

The publication mostly focuses on monoslope and gable-style buildings, and addresses certain management systems within them, following another trend. “We’re seeing more slatted floor systems,” she says. “This can be beneficial in reducing bedding costs and maintenance. The biggest thing is reduced labor.”

The management style of individual producers is a huge factor in this decision. The publication addresses and weighs advantages and disadvantages for both bedding and slatted systems.

Management style

“It comes down to what is the management style,” Doran says. “Some farmers prefer to pump manure a couple times yearly, others may not have the means for this option. Some operations are set up to come in and bed and clean a couple times weekly.”

This shift toward new building styles is largely a result of pressure from environmental regulations to control feedlot runoff. Cattle performance and comfort are also significant factors. This is apparent when dealing with harsh weather as the buildings provide shelter from snow, rain and sun.

Due to timeliness of the topics covered in the publications, they will probably remain relevant for at least a couple years before sources have collected more data, although some aspects will hold true longer.

“I don’t anticipate that basic building principles are going to change much,” she says.

Both publications use resources by a team of specialists from Purdue University, Oklahoma State and Iowa State University.

Animal scientists, veterinarians, ag engineers and entomologists collaborated. Although the publications highlight beef production in the Midwest, cattlemen across the nation will find these references very useful, says Kathy Walker of MWPS at Ames.

This article published in the August, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.