Hoop barn for cow-calf pairs

A BeefSD class recently toured Grand Meadow Feeders, Washta, Iowa, which houses more than 2,240 head of cattle in seven Hoop Beef System fabric- covered barns.

Hoop barn for cow-calf pairs

A BeefSD class recently toured Grand Meadow Feeders, Washta, Iowa, which houses more than 2,240 head of cattle in seven Hoop Beef System fabric- covered barns.

beefSD is an educational program for beginning beef producers. It is designed to give participants an opportunity to expand their knowledge of the cattle industry as a whole, evaluate various production systems and develop goals and management plans.

While many hoop barns are used to finish cattle, Grand Meadow Feeders also uses them to house cow-calf pairs. The farm has 240 cows in a 400-foot long hoop barn. The cows are divided into three groups that calve at different times of the year. This housing system has taken the weather factor out of the operation’s equation; therefore, it can be more flexible with calving and can target alternative marketing times with the calves, rather than the heavy fall run.

Key Points

Hoop barns aren’t just for finishing cattle; Iowa farm houses cow-calf pairs.

The 100-by-400-foot barn holds 240 cows that are divided into three groups.

The barn costs less than the pasture that would be needed to run 240 cows.


The cows that are in this system weigh 900 to 1,100 pounds, and are maintained at a body condition score of 5. Nutritional management has to be monitored closely; otherwise, the cows will become overconditioned quickly.

Tim Bickett, a Hoop Beef Systems consultant, led the tour and indicated that the maintenance requirements of the cows that are housed in the hoop barn are decreased by approximately 30%, which results in an overall decrease in feed needs throughout the year.

The hoop barn is 36 feet wide and has a 4-foot awning over the feed bunk. The barn has a concrete apron behind the feed bunk that is cleaned weekly, and a deep bed that is cleaned twice a year. New bedding is added weekly. These systems are customized to the needs of the producer and the size of the herd.

A few of the characteristics that make these hoop systems work include: lack of wind chill; hair coats are always dry; lack of summer sun causing heat stress; and no spoiled feed. There is also a cash value to spreading the manure on surrounding crop fields. Many would assume that disease and flies would be a concern; however, neither has been a problem at Grand Meadow Feeders.

It was very interesting to see the low number of flies, with around five to 10 flies per animal. Grand Meadows Feeders had not used any chemical fly control, either.

There is a significant cost to build one of these facilities, but it isn’t nearly as much as land would cost to run the same number of head.

One of the biggest considerations with this type of system is the location relative to reliable, cost-effective feed resources.

For more information about Hoop Beef Systems and Grand Meadow Feeders, visit the Hoop Beef System website, www.hoopbeef.com/grand-meadow-feeders.

For more information on beefSD, contact Harty at 605-394-1722, or see www.sdfbf.org/public/449/all_about_agriculture/beefsd.

Harty is an SDSU Extension cow-calf field specialist, Rapid City, S.D.

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This article published in the October, 2014 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.

Beef Herd Management

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