Incentive for a different way to raise cattle.
When people think of a cow/calf producer, many may picture groups of cattle in pastures with their calves by their side. Although this image isn’t going away, with increased land values and impacts of drought, some cow/calf producers are looking for other options to raise their cattle. For some beef producers, the solution is to dry lot the herd or put up a building, such as a hoop barn. If you’re looking for solutions to combat land shortage or quality issues, hoop barns may be the answer you need.
Raising Cattle in Hoop Barns
For the traditional cow/calf producer, thinking about raising cattle in a building raises many questions. However, for beef producers currently raising cattle in hoop buildings, many have been surprised by how much they like the change in their cattle management.
The biggest advantage producers have seen is sheltering their cattle from the elements, especially during calving season. While acting like a windbreak for calves, hoop buildings still have a bountiful amount of ventilation. Calves born in the winter and early spring season seem to quickly thrive with the removal of windchill. In addition, the openness of the barn provides natural light throughout all seasons, while keeping snow and rain off the backs of cattle and provides necessary shade in the heat of the summer.
When looking at hoop barn management practices, a key challenge to address is manure management. Adding a manure bay to the hoop barn to hold manure for a short duration of time is a great option for producers. Concerning bedding for hoop barns, the most economical option seems to work best. For most Midwest producers, corn stalks are an easy answer. Although hoop barns might not look as robust as other options, most hoop barns have a 15-20 year warranty—although most last well past the warranty date.
Incentive Program & the Process
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has created a program to assist producers with their housing needs which assists with manure management practices. Through farm bill programs, the NRCS created the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) to help producers of all types by creating environmental benefits to their operation. These include improving water and air quality, conserving ground and surface water, increasing soil health and reducing soil erosion. Hoop barns are a great way to help constrain manure runoff into streams and major waterways. By connecting with your local NRCS personnel and applying for EQIP, up to 50% of your building costs could be paid for by the program. The process looks something like the steps below.
- Contact your local NRCS. The NRCS suggests you come to them as soon as you have even the slightest interest in the program. Farmers often wait to come to NRCS until they are firmly ready to move forward with putting up a building. This program can be very beneficial but does take time, so plan ahead and reach out to the NRCS right away.
- Create comprehensive nutrient and manure management plans for your cattle operation. This is a requirement of EQIP and the NRCS can assist you in building these management plans.
- Work with your county NRCS to get an application submitted.
- If selected, contact an engineer that can come into the project to work with your farm and the NRCS to come up with the building plan and needs.
- Enjoy your new hoop barn.
Note: Not all those who apply for EQIP will get funding, however, those building close to bodies of water, have dredge ditches that flow into a major waterway or have rough terrain (like hills) that makes manure runoff more likely will rate higher and have a greater chance of funding.
Hoop Barns & EQUIP Inquiry
Interested in learning more about hoop barns, EQIP and talking with experts who know how to incorporate this into your cattle operation?
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