Best new feedlot features

Paul and Jim Bitz, Napoleon, N.D., expanded their feedlot, J&P Feeders, from 1,800- to 4,000-head capacity in 2006. Some of the features that the brothers say they especially like in the new facility include:

Thirty-foot-wide drive-through feed alleys. It takes four fewer hours per day to feed cattle compared to feeding from inside the pens, says Paul.

Three 600-foot-long concrete feed bunk lines. The bunks were poured on-site in a continuous-pour system. The advantage to pouring on-site is that the bunk line can be poured on a gravel foundation. Precast bunks are usually placed on the concrete feed pad and take up about 3 feet.

A 12-foot feed pad in front of the bunk. “We considered only going 9 feet,” Paul says, “because that’s wide enough for cattle to stand on when they eat, but the cattle walking behind them are walking off the pad. Pretty soon, you end up with a mud hole behind the pad that you have to fill.” A 12-foot pad is also wide enough so the outside tractor or payloader wheel doesn’t run off the edge of the concrete.

North-south orientation. The bunk line and pens run in a north-south rather than an east-west direction. Sunlight reaches both sides of bunks oriented north-south equally, which helps dry out the area next to the bunks. Because the prevailing winter wind is out of the north, snow doesn’t drift as badly around north-south bunks as it does with east-west bunks.

Solid and liquid runoff separator structures located outside the pens. Because cattle tend to stand in muddy areas, the brothers fenced cattle away from the separators. This way, cattle don’t stand in front of a separator, creating a hole that will not dry out, Jim says. Runoff from the lots flows to a lagoon where it is pumped onto fields through a pivot irrigation system.

A processing barn with a double alley leading to the working chute. Cattle are calmer when they walk side by side rather than in single file through the alley.

View a slide show of the new feedlot under Web Exclusives at


Guide: Jim Bitz leads a tour of the feedlot that he and his brother, Paul, expanded.


Lots of feed: This 600-foot-long continuous bunk line was poured on-site on a gravel base.

This article published in the September, 2012 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.