Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
    Protecting Cattle from Extreme Weather: The Benefits and Challenges of Putting a Roof Over Their Heads

    Extreme weather changes have become increasingly common, prompting cattle producers to explore different methods of protecting their animals. One effective approach is to provide a roof over their heads, ensuring that the cattle remain comfortable regardless of the weather conditions outside. However, this solution can be expensive and may not be economically viable during periods of low cattle prices.

    According to Travis Meteer, Extension beef specialist at the University of Illinois, feedlot operators in his state are faced with regulations that increase the financial burden. Larger feedlots have had to comply with these regulations, further adding to construction costs, labor costs, and higher feed expenses. Despite these challenges, providing a roof for the cattle offers benefits in terms of improved feed efficiency, average daily gain, and overall animal comfort.

    The Midwest climate, known for extreme temperature shifts, makes roofed confinement a favorable option for cattle production. Meteer speculates that there may also be a move towards incorporating robotics in cattle feeding, which would require animals to be housed indoors to ensure the safety of the robots. This shift may lead to further adoption of enclosed feeding systems.

    Research conducted by South Dakota State University and Iowa State University highlights the advantages and disadvantages of confining cattle under a roof. Confinement barns help control manure runoff and capture its nutritive value for crop production. However, there are also drawbacks, such as the need for increased cleaning and bedding. Producers may need to clean the facility anywhere from two to four times per week, with an average daily bedding requirement of around 4.25 pounds per day.

    In conclusion, while putting a roof over the heads of cattle offers numerous benefits in terms of animal welfare and manure management, it also presents challenges in terms of cost and maintenance. However, with the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, the investment may prove to be worthwhile for cattle producers in the long run.

    – Travis Meteer, Extension beef specialist at the University of Illinois
    – Research from South Dakota State University and Iowa State University