LEWIS, Iowa -- For years, beef producers and environmental specialists have looked for economical ways to curb intensive runoff from feedlots. In addition, environmental regulations in high-rainfall areas, such as Iowa, are creating increased interest in new livestock production systems. As a result, specialists at Iowa State University (ISU) have begun research to quantify the environment in a bedded hoop barn used for finishing cattle, and to compare beef cattle performance in hoops to conventional open feedlots.
Hoop barns are not necessarily new to livestock. Known for their low cost and versatility, hoop barns have been used as swine finishing facilities for several years. However, recent innovations have expanded hoop production use to include providing shelter to dairy and beef cattle, sows and piglets, and other livestock systems. A unique advantage of hoop building for finishing cattle is the containment of waste runoff, which can address concentrated animal feeding operation regulations for larger beef operations.
The research project is underway at ISU’s Armstrong Research Farm, near Lewis in southwest Iowa. Construction is now complete on a 50-foot wide, 120-foot long barn, which includes a fenceline feedbunk with concrete apron and scrape alley. The barn houses 120 head of steers, with approximately 50 square feet per animal.
Mark Honeyman, professor of animal science at ISU, discusses the current climate in the beef production industry and how hoop barns may offer much-needed solutions. “In order to be viable, today’s finishing facilities must be profitable as well as environmentally responsible, with particular attention to an operation’s effects on water quality,” states Honeyman. “We are very eager to find how hoop barns compare to open feedlots and conventional confinements, both in operation costs and environmental impacts.”
Data on the hoop barn project will be collected and summarized on facility cost, feed intake, feed efficiency, cost of gain, daily gain, bedding use, manure output and labor requirements. Results of the study will be ongoing, and steers in the hoop barn will be compared to those in an outside feedlot and shed, also located at the Armstrong Research Farm.
For more information about the project, contact the ISU Armstrong Research Farm at (712) 769-2600. Visitors are welcome to visit the farm and observe the barn in use. The project is funded by the Leopold Center at ISU, the Iowa Beef Center, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Wallace Foundation, as well as several cattle feeders and ag businesses in southwest Iowa.
Rachel E. Martin, Iowa Beef Center, (515)294-9124,