Taming Mother Nature: Indoor Cattle Facility Offers Big Health Benefits

Taming Mother Nature: Indoor Cattle Facility Offers Big Health Benefits

Just spend these late winter months in the middle of calving season or feeding cattle and you know the weather can make it miserable. We recently met a Michigan producer looking to change that on his farm. He found a way to utilize his land and some borrowed technology to overcome Michigan’s cold winters.

Instead of battling through Michigan’s cold winters and muddy springs, Ron Weston thought he’d just build around it.

“One of the things I hate the worst is to have to pull the feeders through the mud,” said Constantine, Michigan producer, Ron Weston.

The third generation producer started by replacing an old barn. He always wanted to expand but herd but space was limited. So, he incorporated what he knew: swine and cattle. Weston toured about a half a dozen places in Canada because that area had more of a style he wanted.

“You’re seeing less and less people in this industry. You have to be more concentrated like this. Our borders are being tightened all the time,” said Weston.

While the 145 by 75 ft facility has a roof, all the sides are open. Holsteins on one side, angus-cross on the other, the capacity can hold a capacity of 600 head.

“It’s been more profitable to have it this way than an old fashioned outside lot,” said Weston.

Weston will be the first to tell you why. He geared his barn with a ventilation system, which makes the barn 10 degrees hotter in the winter and 10 degrees cooler in the summer. As a result, Weston says the facility is free from birds and insects. That means also free from respiratory problems.

“You don’t find anything in here you don’t want,” said Weston.

Inside, he modeled it similar to a swine barn, with slatted floors and rubber mats.

“What they’re providing on these mats is a cushion so that we can diversify and feed dairy animals in here. We have proven you cannot feed dairy on a slatted floor,” said Weston.

Weston says the best accomplishment: the cattle’s feed efficiency and health. The cost of gain per pound is a little less than 50 cents.

Weston says one of his biggest advantages with the facility is his rate of gain. He's now seeing an average of 3 to 4 pounds per day.

“Our death loss has been just phenomenal. We don’t reach one percent death loss with the life of the animals in here,” said Weston.

Weston says it’s not just a benefit for his cattle but also for him. He’s able to save and use the manure as fertilizer during the year.

“In this pit, there’s approximately, 850,000 gallons of fertilizer under there,” said Weston.

Row crop and calf crop gains, Weston says he’d build again and again, because after-all, who doesn’t want to beat the weather.

“If you were to have these animals in an open field and dirt lot, they’re in the mud. Well, now they’re not in the mud,” said Weston. 

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