Best feeding facility? You decide

Eight years ago Steve Ollerich expanded his family’s farming operation when he purchased a 3,000-head open feedlot near Elkton, S.D. As his daughter, Trish, 20, looks to return to the operation in the near future, Ollerich says he is searching for ways he can expand again, and improve efficiencies.

“If you can lower any cost involved, you’re able to make more of a profit. Facilities are a big part of this. They can keep cattle more comfortable and keep them gaining.”

Ollerich attended the South Dakota State University Opportunities Farm’s Cattle Feeding Facility Seminar this summer. The 1,120-acre working farm and feedlot operation houses three 320-head feeding facilities — a confinement facility, partial confinement facility and an open feedlot.

Key Points

• Best feedlot facility depends on location, other factors.

• Opportunties Farm has three different types of feedlots.

• Feed conversion is best in structures in the winter.

There are many factors to consider when looking for the most efficient feeding facility, says Matt Loewe, farm manager.

“Before a cattle feeder decides which facility will work best, they need to take many things into consideration — like their geographic location — which will dictate evaporation days, average annual rainfall, wind speed, snow cover, soil, slope — all the challenges the producer may face at the location,” Loewe says. “For example, expanding our dirt yard is fairly easy because this land is relatively flat but with a nice slope, and we aren’t next to water sources. Go six miles west of here, and that won’t work as well. The land is flat, and it sits above a high water table.”

Once a producer understands the geographic challenges, Loewe says much of the decision rests with feed conversion.

“Producers will ask how much bigger do they grow, or how much greater is the average daily gain. Feed efficiency is what drives those two things.”

Opportunities Farm’s feed conversion rates vary between facilities based on the season, says Ben Holland, SDSU Extension feedlot specialist. There’s only an annual average difference of 3% between the total and partial confinement and the open lot. However, when looking at groups fed during the winter months, the efficiency rate increases to 10% in the total confinement and 7% in partial confinement compared to open lots.

“Efficiency of a facility is based on its ability to reduce stress and minimize excess energy used to keep the animal warm or cool to maintain normal body processes,” Holland says. “Consider your program. If you feed cattle that are close to harvest during winter when the weather and mud is hardest on cattle, a structure may be the best option.”

When feeders ask Loewe which facility he prefers, he says it depends on the weather. “Each season presents different challenges with each facility.”

After the tour, Ollerich plans to implement partial confinement buildings on his operation. “I was surprised how efficient partial confinement was compared to open feedlot and the total confinement. It’s important to keep the wind off the cattle in the winter, and heat in the summer,” Ollerich says.

Roti writes from Sioux Falls, S.D.

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10101320B.tif B

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Which is the BEST FACILITY? SDSU’s Opportunities Farm has three different feeding facilities: open lots (A), partial confinement (B) and total confinement (C). Feed conversion is better in the partial and total confinement structures when cattle finish in winter, but the difference is small when averaged over the whole year.

This article published in the October, 2010 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.