Beef producers in southwest Iowa asked Iowa State University (ISU) Extension specialists about shelters that would keep cattle out of mud, under a roof, and in an environment that would preclude manure run-off. In summer 2005, Shawn Shouse, ISU Extension field engineer, launched a study of hoop shelters with a 50- by 120-foot building on a research farm next to a traditional semi-confinement feedlot. “We’re primarily studying what it will cost to put cattle in a hoop building, and if the cattle will perform as well in a hoop building open lot,” says Shouse. Performance factors include cattle weight gain, feed intake, and mud score. So far, the results are promising.
The shelter consists of a large hoop frame covered by a tarp over a concrete or geotextile fabric floor. Opportunities for tarp, tent or geotextile fabric manufacturers may expand as the hoop building catches on among cattle producers. “Our experience at the research farm is if we can hold the tarp on the building, the tarps themselves last well, but holding the tarps together in a strong wind is most difficult,” says Shouse. The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture calls hoop shelters “a low-cost, versatile” option that “may help alleviate run-off and other environmental problems associated with open beef cattle feedlots.”