Housing Systems Summary Dr. Tom Peters

T.M. Peters, Consulting Nutritionist, 5/17/16

The winter of 2015/2016 was a prime example of how cattle finishing environment affects growth and performance in finishing cattle.  Wet and muddy pens, persistent moisture (snow and rain) coupled with cold temperatures often resulted in subpar cattle performance when cattle were finished in “dirt” mounded lots in many Northern Plains feedlots.

My paper from 2013 and the attached tables enumerate expected differences when comparing various housing systems for finishing cattle.  With cattle being raised to record high out-weights during the winter of 2015/16, the need for best management practices coupled with best housing systems/environment is magnified.  Cattle input costs (record highs) justify great environment to insure performance predictability.  Likewise, feed costs continue to escalate which also predicate needs for improving the performance of cattle production.

I will be writing an updated comparative cattle finishing systems review in various environments for the “2017 Cattle Housing Symposium” (March 30, 2017 -Sioux Falls, South Dakota).  However, when similar cattle in-weight and breed type steers were fed in mono-slope barns compared to dirt mounds (same feedlots) during the winter of 2015/16 ….there was a $0.56 per head per DAY advantage (>250 days on feed) favoring the mono-slope finished cattle by $140 per head!  Amortized over a 15 year period- this advantage justifies the improved housing system (mono-slope barn) will pay for itself in 6 years or less.

Investors in finishing cattle MUST have more predictable cattle performance to stay in business and attract investors.  Many people who feed cattle have now indicated to me that “my cattle will never spend another winter in the Northern Plains in an open mound, dirt feedlot”.

Consider that during the last 5 years (2010-2015) , veterinary expenditure per head (cattle) has risen 12.8% while mortality has risen 16% for similar in-weight cattle finished in the Northern Plains.  While I realize that housing is not the only factor involved in this phenomenon, inadequate housing surely has a profound impact on stress, morbidity and mortality.   Thus, there is an increasing need to provide well designed, sheltered environments for finishing cattle as “more antibiotic use” does NOT offset the stress of “a poor environment”!  Furthermore, with the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) being implemented on January 1, 2017, the need for great environment for finishing cattle becomes exasperated.

Labor costs/availability and bedding costs continue to escalate.  Many Northern Plains feedlots have built mono-slope, bedded barns for starting and growing cattle.  Due to labor requirements for cleaning and bedding pens in these mono-slope bedded barns and manure storage requirements being regulated by the EPA/DEQ/DNR officials, many producers are now building rubber covered, deep pit, mono-slope cattle finishing barns.   This paper summarizes differences in housing systems for finishing cattle in the Northern Plains region.  Performance comparisons, cost and manure analysis between systems are discussed in the paper.

The 2017 Housing Symposium will update numbers and data.

-T. Peters