Feedlot operators have several choices in types of facilities. In the last fifteen years most of the interest has been in confinement facilities either slatted floor pit barns or bedded facilities with the cattle under roof. Hoop buildings, monoslope roofs and gable roof buildings have all been built. This interest has been generated by increased enforcement of runoff from open lots and potential cattle performance benefits. Increase in manure nutrients and nutrient consistency to be used for crop production have also been drivers of this interest. Labor availability and cattle comfort are also considerations.
A 2014 survey conducted by the Iowa Beef Center found that among survey participants 21% of operations who had expanded in the past five years used confinement while 26% used open lot or open lots with some kind of roof shelter. It is apparent all kinds of facilities can work in the right situation with good management.
Buildings and concrete are higher investment than an open earth lot and the cost and benefits plus long term plans of the operation need to be considered.
With all the variables in types of facilities and potential payoff it can be difficult to weigh the pluses and minuses. If a location can’t be found where a well designed runoff control system can be installed economically in conjunction with an open lot, a confinement building may be the best choice. Can the higher investment in these facilities be offset by increased cattle performance or manure value?
The Iowa Beef Center recently revised the Iowa Beef Feedlot Systems manual PM 1867. It is available to download for free or you can ordered a printed copy for $7.00 on the ISU Extension Online Store. The manual compares open lots, open lots with shelters, bedded confinement and slatted floor confinement type of facilities. Approximate investment is compared along with an estimated cattle performance based on available research. In addition, estimated manure value and operation costs are included. A cost of gain for all systems is calculated and compared, and all systems are very close with the assumptions that are used.