During a recent multiple production system bus tour members of the beefSD Class 2 had the opportunity to learn how controlled environments may provide an option for expanding beef production in South Dakota, explained Adele Harty, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.
"With the recent escalation in land prices, it is more challenging for young people to "buy" into the business of beef production due to the larger capital investment required and the fact that most young producers have little equity," Harty said. "Hoop Beef Systems are an alternative that utilizes a controlled environment to produce beef cattle."
She explained that although hoop systems are commonly used to feed cattle to slaughter the system toured by the beefSD class at Grand Meadow Feeders is being used for cow/calf pairs. "The system that is currently being utilized at Grand Meadow Feeders has 240 cows in a 400 foot long hoop barn," she said. "The cows are divided into three groups that calve at three different times of the year. This system has taken the weather factor out of the equation; therefore producers can be more flexible with the calving season and target alternative marketing times with the calves, rather than the heavy fall run."
The cows that are in this system weigh 900-1100 pounds and are maintained at a body condition score of 5. "Nutritional management has to be monitored closely, otherwise the cows will become over conditioned in a short period of time," she said.
Tim Bickett, System Consultant for Hoop Beef Systems led the tour. He indicated that the maintenance requirements of the cows decrease by approximately 30 percent in this system, which results in an overall decrease in feed needs throughout the year.
"The systems are customized to the needs of the producer and the size of the herd," Harty said.
She added that there are multiple factors that make these systems intriguing.

"Just a few of the characteristics that make these hoop systems work include:  no wind chill, hair coats are always dry, no summer sun causing heat stress, and no spoiled feed," Harty said. "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 in this system; however Harty said that when speaking with Bickett, neither of these has been a problem at Grand Meadow Feeders. "It was very interesting to see the low number of flies, with around five-ten flies per animal. They stated that they had not used any chemical fly control either."

There is a significant cost to build a hoop facility, but Harty said it is not nearly as much as land would cost to run the same number of heads. "One of the biggest considerations with this type of system is the location relative to reliable, cost-effective feed resources," she said.
The purpose of beefSD is to provide beginning farmers and ranchers an opportunity to gain knowledge and expertise to help them succeed in the farming and ranching business. There are six key components to the two-year course, with one being the out-of-state travel study trips.


For more information regarding the beefSD tour or getting involved in beefSD, contact Adele Harty at 605-394-1722 or [email protected], Robin Salverson at 605-374-4177 or [email protected], Ken Olson at 605-394-2236 or [email protected], or Janna Kincheloe at 605-394-2236 or [email protected].