Is a Mono-Slope Building right For Your Operation?

Published on Thu, 04/05/2018 - 11:32am

 Is a Mono-Slope Building right For Your Operation?

 By Bruce Derksen • Photos courtesy of Summit Livestock Facilities •

Constant change is a staple of cattle producer’s lives.  Sometimes it is instigated by the producers themselves and sometimes it is a requirement demanded by outside forces, including government agencies.  The question of whether to build or expand an open space feedlot or instead choose a covered roof or mono-slope building to house your livestock may depend on your location in the country, but there is no question that government regulations will expand rather than shrink and if you have not already been affected by them, rest assured you will be soon.  Specific to Iowa, the Department of Natural Resources presently inspects numerous operations and indications are that the criteria and guidelines involving manure containment and run-off will become more stringent and wide spread in the near future.

Considering this, to stay ahead of the curve, producers looking to build new or expand existing feed-yards should seriously evaluate erecting a mono-slope building to house their cattle.  These structures can be used comfortably for both beef and dairy cattle and are generally built with the front and back open, often with canvas flaps that can be dropped down in severe weather.  Feed bunks and alleyways can be designed along the front or back leaving the interior completely open or partitioned with removable pens.
There are many obvious benefits to a mono-slope building beyond the tightening government regulations regarding manure containment and run-off control affecting water sources and supplies.  A large benefit is realized in times of extreme weather keeping cattle dry and comfortable no matter the harsh reality outdoors.  This is not limited to only cold and wet conditions as the design allows for proper air flow and shade in extremely hot weather as well.  It is a fact that feed digestion adds body heat and combined with stifling hot temperatures, can influence a drop in feed intake.  Although data studies are limited as these types of structures have only recently begun gaining momentum, many early results point to higher average daily gains and better feed efficiency.  It seems only natural that cattle in dry controlled conditions would perform at a higher rate than those dealing with the outdoor elements twenty four hours a day, often being forced to trudge through wet, sloppy mud and manure to reach feed and water.  Limited studies on quality and quantity of bedding used in a mono-slope building also suggest a possible improvement in the carcass grading of finished animals.

Another sometimes over-looked benefit to a mono-slope building is the quality of the manure generated.  Every bit of the bedding waste and manure is contained without outside conditions such as rainfall and snow storms washing away the nutrients.  This manure has high nutrient value and can substantially reduce the price of fertilizers required on grain lands.  With good design and removable pens, these facilities can be cleaned regularly and the manure stock-piled in a controlled area to be used as needed throughout the year.
There are drawbacks of course, the first being cost, but there are government programs available to lend a hand.  At this point, their goal is not to stone-wall livestock producers but to bring about compliance to environmental regulations and as such appear willing to be flexible.            
Some livestock producers have even grouped together with neighbors to control costs.  Neighbors without cattle have constructed mono-slope buildings on their land to be used by the cattle producers.  Costs of construction have been shared, with the cattle producer using the building and the neighbor receiving the high quality manure generated to off-set the costs of fertilizer for his grain farming.
So if you as a cattle producer have decided to build a mono-slope building for any or all of the above reasons, be sure to do your homework.  Make it roomy enough and expandable, putting in large doors and adding bunks and alleyways if required.  When deciding on size, consider that it can even be used in off seasons and down times for feed or machinery storage.  Beyond the aesthetic and clean look it can add to your livestock enterprise, you will be doing a small part to conserve the environment, producing happier more efficient livestock.  It seems like a winning situation all around.