For Iowa feeder Harris Haywood, waking up to blizzard conditions creates concern, but not the worry he'd have if his cattle were in an open-lot facility. Instead, he feeds cattle in nine monoslope facilities at and near his farm in Eldora, Iowa.
By dropping the curtains on the barn, he keeps the cattle dry and sheltered from extreme weather. Haywood built his first 40' deep monoslope facility, which houses 450 head, in 2001. Now he feeds cattle in nine of these facilities.
A typical monoslope building has a roof truss that is higher on the front side, which faces the south, and slopes toward the back. There are no permanent front or back walls, but rather curtains along the open sides that can be lowered during weather extremes. Most of the time, however, the facility remains open to allow for air circulation and ventilation.
The rule of thumb when determining the necessary length of a single-wide, 40' barn is one head per foot of length. Some facilities are twice as wide, but still have the monoslope roofline. In addition, facilities of this type require a bedding pack, which usually consists of harvested cornstalks, bean stubble, wheat straw or sawdust.
This type of facility is relatively new for feeding cattle, so there's not much definitive research on animal performance and other factors.
Beth Doran, Iowa State University beef specialist, says she helped conduct an informal survey of 29 producers across Iowa who fed cattle in either a hoop or monoslope barn. Of those surveyed, 15 used monoslope facilities and 14 fed in hoop barns.
Producers were asked how performance parameters for the monoslope barn compared to their open lots:
- 50% reported no change in feed intake.
- 43% reported an increase in feed intake.
- 86% reported improved average daily gain and improved feed efficiency.
- 80% reported an increase in labor.
Doran says more research is needed. "We've just scratched the surface in terms of research on cattle performance in these facilities,” she says. "There have been only two studies, but we just received a multi-state grant to look at building emissions and impact on air quality.”
Biggest benefit. Manure nutrient value is higher in the monoslope buildings compared to the manure in outside yards. At current fertilizer prices, the annual manure value from these facilities is greater than the building payment, points out Daryl Eichelberger, who has two 450-head buildings near Muscatine, Iowa.
He says the manure nutrient value stays very consistent coming out of the barn.