If you’re considering building a new heifer facility, Joe Harner of Kansas State University says there are some key considerations when designing the facility.
- Capacity. What kind of stocking rate are you looking for in your pens? Harner says capacity decreases 6% per month of increase in breeding age.
- Growth and expansion. During the initial design stages of building a facility, it’s important to design for growth. Maybe you’re only feeding 400 calves now, but plan to feed 1,000 in five years. “You don’t have to build them all, but don’t build the thing so tight that there’s no flexibility,” Harner says.
- Drainage. Will your pens drain well? Just 4" of mud reduce feed efficiency by 10%. “Mud is most easily dealt with by site selection or pen shaping,” he says. “It is always more expensive to correct mud problems.”
- Feeding system. There are several feeding systems to consider: headlocks, post and rail, vertical bars and slant bars. Whichever you choose, keep these factors in mind: a firm base, barrier thickness, barrier height, feed frequency and feed push up.
- Watering system. There should be enough water space for 10% of the pen to drink at one time.
- Shade and wind consideration. Most farms will require a shade structure in heifer pens, but do you need wind blocks, too? The wind protection area is 10x the wind break height. The snow dump area is 4x wind break height.