With the high price of land, Greg Drebes could not expand his row crop operation. He decided to focus on raising cattle. But as row crop farmers claimed more pasture ground, finding suitable grazing land became an issue. So, the Monroe City cattleman erected a barn just last year that allows him to finish more cattle under one roof.
Drebes' Prairie View Farms was one stop on the 2013 University of Missouri Commercial Ag Beef Tour, which traversed Marion and Lewis counties in northeastern Missouri. Drebes opened the gates of his 40 by 100-foot modified open-front barn to his fellow cattlemen during a hot August afternoon.
He has already used the barn for breeding his 200 Simmental and Sim x Angus cow herd. With three, timed artificial insemination breedings under roof, pregnancy rates are already above 93.5%. "The only difference in our breeding program was the barn," he says. "I think keeping the cows out of the elements, in a comfortable environment and on good feed made the difference." However, he said a few more breeding cycles should produce more data.
The barn has the flexibility to create various size pens to meet Drebes needs. Generally, he uses four pens that have the capacity to hold up to 30 heifers or weaned calves, or 28 bull calves. "So far, those are the numbers that work best for waste management and feeding," he says. "When you put 40 to 50 in a pen, it is hard to check them."
Along the outside of the barn, under a small overhang, is a 100-foot concrete feed bunk. Cows walk on a 15-foot concrete pad inside the barn to reach the bunks. Behind the pad is 25-feet of deep-bedded cornstalks. Drebes tried straw last year because of the drought-induced cornstalk shortage, but does not recommend the practice. "It lasts just half as long," he says, "and it is expensive." He cleans the pen every month and hauls the waste to his fields.
The high roof allows the heat to rise, keeping the cool air around the cattle. Drebes explains that during the winter months, he shuts the doors and lowers curtains to keep the heat inside the building. He also believes that overall air movement keeps fly problems to a minimum.
With such a tall roofline, Drebes admits that high winds in the northern part of the state were a concern. "We had a pretty good test this spring," he explains. "There was a tornado nearby, but all we had was a lot of high winds. It rattled, but did not buckle. It really stood up to the test."
The cost to put up the building including all the concrete work and gates was roughly $100,000. Drebes worked with the Amish community to find builders in nearby Canton. "If there was one thing I would change," Drebes says, "I would make it bigger."