Under Cover

Published on Mon, 10/25/2021 - 2:52pm

Under Cover.

 By Maura Keller.

 These days, just about everyone in the agricultural business is burdened with some kind of challenge—from protecting crops and animals from disease to preventing erosion of fertile soil to providing weed protection and reducing the requirements for water, fertilizers, and insecticides. And for cattle producers, providing the best cow and calf buildings and facilities for protection, production and safety is paramount.

Luckily for producers, today’s options for shelters and building for cattle are numerous and offer state-of-the-art environs for animals. In addition, many of today’s structures can be customized to meet the exact specifications and requirements that a producer is looking for. And as the health and well-being of livestock is recognized as the key facet in successful cattle production, today’s livestock structures embrace the much-needed elements to keep animals healthy include natural light and plenty of ventilation.

WeCover offers galvanized steel frame buildings with a fabric or steel roof, custom designed to a producer’s unique needs. “Our design specialists work with you to develop the perfect building for your operation, and we ship it right to you,” says Jake Warren at WeCover. “Our best sellers are finishing barns because of how the fabric roofs benefit cow comfort, health, and thereby intake and gains. We often tell our customers the building helps pay for itself in the increased pounds per head per day.”

The technology and design of cow/calf buildings and facilities have evolved in recent years. First of all is the increased interest in fabric panel roofs as they can be reminiscent of shade tree, but in a climate-controlled environment. For example, the WeCover fabric panel roof provides a natural indoor environment year-round with bright, shadowless light, making a huge impact on animals’ health while saving money on electricity.

As Warren explains, fabric roofs have come a long way from their “cheap and flimsy” reputation 30 years ago. The improved strength, and longevity of today’s structures are making farmers of all kinds reconsider a fabric roof for their next build, especially because of the natural light permeation.
“Producers are also looking for galvanized, heavy duty steel,” Warren says. “A steel frame building allows for a wider range of ventilation options. Ultimately it’s about the light, the airflow, and happier, healthier, better producing animals.”

Ventilation is Key
Airflow is another great example of how the form and function of these buildings has evolved for the betterment of the animals. According to Brian Turner with Central Confinement Services (CCS), the design of the barn and how it sits on the property to maximize airflow over the cattle translates into a more comfortable animal, which should turn into better and faster gains.

To address ventilation issues, CCS offers the Gable Ridge Vent Cattle Confinement Barn, which has two upwards sloping sides from steel construction that meet each other at the top, or the ridge, of the building. They have a center ridge vent in the middle for proper natural ventilation. The company’s A-typical CCS Monoslope building has a roof truss that is higher on the front side. The front side faces the south and slopes toward the back. There are no permanent front or back walls, but rather a curtain along the north side that can be lowered during extreme weather.

What’s more CCS has developed dairy barn plans that maximize the use of each square foot of space and incorporate the latest concepts in ventilation. They approach each project with a producer’s goals in mind to maximize animal comfort and productivity; provide a safe, comfortable, and efficient environment for workers; and be exceptionally durable and easy to maintain.

WeCover also offers a series of ventilation options including mechanical ventilation such as fans and thermostats for mechanical ventilation, sidewall curtains that provide cattle with fresh air as well as protection from the elements and shade, and chimneys and dampeners to help control the indoor environment.

“Another thing that has happened is we have a better understanding of what cattle need for space in order to be safe and comfortable in their pens,” Turner says. “Many universities are actually studying the effect of pen size in relation to feeding and the potential gains. We work hard to collaborate with those Universities so we can pass the best practices on to the producer.”

Central Confinement Service offers a variety of facilities that range from monoslope, fabric and steel structures. The company’s offerings are more than the cover however; their team talks with the producer and evaluates the needs or goals that they are after.

“For example, are they looking for a deep pit or bed pack barn? Each has its merits and we have the expertise to help the producer decide which one is best in both use and budget,” Turner says.

Considerations To Make
When considering purchasing a cow or calf facilities, producers should consider the longevity of your build. Is your building frame corrosion protected?

“Fabric roofs will actually outlast unprotected steel for exactly that reason,” Warren says. “You also want to work with a design specialist who can give you input on how to lay out the flow of your building, and design one for your unique situation. Don’t work with a salesperson you don’t trust.”

Overcrowding is the number one mistake Warren sees ranchers and farmers make when using cow and calf buildings and facilities.

“The stress this can cause animals may be detrimental to the ‘increased value’ of packing more animals in to less space anyway,” Warren says. “Plan conservatively for your space, and move up from there.”

Diamond Shelters, manufactured by Dueck’s Mechanical, Inc. has been designing and manufacturing fabric covered buildings since 1989, specifically single hoop and welded truss shelters that range in size from 15 feet to 160 feet wide and boast North American-made 12-ounce polyethylene fabric. Diamond Shelters advises that producers need to also make sure the chosen foundation for the structure is properly engineered and meets all building code requirements.

Turner also advises that producers should ask some key questions such what is the facility going to do? Will this be backgrounding? Full confinement? Cow or calf? Is there a working area needed?

“Once those things are decided, then we need to determine the size of the facility and that is a simple calculation of how many cattle does the producer what in the building,” Turner says. “Sometimes the producer is not sure what they want, that is why we try to tour as many facilities that we can to give the producer the best ideas and options.”

Facility size is a key area where producers make as they don’t understand that it is always less expensive to go bigger in the beginning. Moreover, do not be locked into a style until you take the time to talk with a cattle specialists.

“What works for your neighbor may not work for you,” Turner says.

It seems that more data is being captured by the universities and passed on to the producers about pen size, temperature, nutrition, etc.

“As a producer, I would stay close to my nearest university and see what they have going on,” Turner says. “In addition, deep pit utilization is an area that is gaining attention. The manure that is collected has a tangible value that can help offset fertilizer costs. We help calculate the savings when we present the proposal to the producer.”