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4 Ways this Cattle Barn is Paying Off

It came down to two choices for Ron Carpenter and his partners: Build a confinement cattle barn or stop feeding altogether. 
They went with the new barn. The 644-foot-long structure, soon to complete its first year in operation, can accommodate 1,600 head at a time.

The full 14-foot-deep pit under slatted floors will hold a year’s worth of manure. 
Previously, the partners (which includes Ron, wife Deb, sister Rita Jones, and brother-in-law Laverne Jones) fed cattle in outdoor cement lots. The new barn is paying off in at least four ways.

1. Regulatory compliance
Environmental regulations regarding manure containment and runoff control put their old outdoor feedlot in jeopardy, says Carpenter. The new barn, while requiring many environmental hoops in planning and construction, should be problem-free now.

“We did all the work up front, and we’re in regulatory compliance,” he says. “There is no runoff from our pits.

“If we have a runoff problem from an open feedlot, we’re going to get fined. Then we’re still going to have to fix the problem on top of that. To us, it seems like the right thing is to fix the problem first, before we get into trouble,” he says.

2. Lighter workload
It’s a lot less labor than the outdoor dirt lots, says Carpenter.

“We used to spend three to four hours a day feeding cattle. Now, it’s about an hour and a half. It frees up a lot of time to do other things.”

Many cattle feeders who have gone confinement have built solid-floor barns with deep bedding systems.

“You have to scrape those a couple times a week,” he notes. “We don’t do any scraping. We pump the pit out once a year and spread to cornfields.”

3. Full manure value
“In our outdoor lots, we scraped manure from the cement and dirt,” he says. “We know a lot of manure ran off and leached away. Sometimes, we had to spread it in less-than-ideal conditions, such as on snow or frozen ground. We know we were losing at least half of the manure value.”

In the new barn, they don’t lose any value. “We pump the pit in the fall when the weather and soil conditions are good,” he says.

4. Better cattle efficiency
CJ Farms has put just one full group of cattle through the barn, and gains have been excellent at about 4 pounds per day.

“Typically, we would get about 3.5 pounds per day in the open lots,” says Carpenter. “The cattle are more content, and they aren’t up and down much. They are more consistent in their eating patterns, regardless of weather events. We moved one group of cattle into the barn and rather than go off feed, their consumption actually increased.” 

Carpenter thinks feed efficiency is much better in confinement, too.

“I don’t have the numbers yet, but in the winter, we can close the curtains and they never have to feel the wind like they did outside,” he says.

A 4-foot gable opening at the top of the barn roof creates a chimney effect on hot summer days, providing constant air movement 

About the barn
The new gable-roof cattle barn, built by Iowa Beef Systems, has capacity to hold 1,600 head and is 104×644 feet. 
There are 11 pens. Seven are 60×64 feet and hold 180 head. The other four are 36×64 feet and hold 100 head each. CJ Farms stocks the barn at 21 square feet per head and fills feeding bunks once a day with a mixed ration of corn earlage, gluten, and distillers’ grains.

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