For many producers, hoop structures can be a cost effective way to start a new operation or expand their herd, provide protection from the elements, offer a group housing facilities for calves and heifers, or as a temporary/seasonal shelter than can also double has hay or equipment storage.
Designed and managed properly, hoop barns take advantage of natural ventilation and lighting while eliminating concerns related to manure management, nutrient runoff, and ground water contamination. The structures also allow producers to be more flexible with calving and marketing timelines, as they eliminate weather concerns.
Cattle housed in hoop structures often perform better and more consistently than their counterparts in feedlots; similarly, producers have found that calves stay healthier in a controlled environment, and that the diagnosis and treatment of ailments is easier and more consistent than when housed in individual calf hutches.
The basic structure – wood or concrete sidewalls topped with steel arches and a polyvinyl tarp – is easily customized to suit the specific needs of beef or dairy herds. Producers can select from a drive-through feed alley or covered exterior bunks and tailor pen numbers and sizes to fit their operation’s needs. Additional considerations may include additional lighting, sorting gates or removable pen walls for easier cleaning, electric curtains, rain gutters, and forced air ventilation.
Hoop barns work well in cold and snowy areas, as they provide protection from wind and snow, with indoor temperatures averaging 10-15 degrees warmer than the exterior temperatures. Snow buildup is also not an issue for most, as it slides right off the fabric roof.
Designed improperly, many benefits of the hoop barn can be lost. Structures that lack the appropriate ridge vent or that are closed up too tight can trap moisture inside. While bedding costs and maintenance requirements are generally higher, and roof tarps may need occasional replacing, the tradeoff of reducing heat stress, growing cattle more consistently, and providing employees and handlers with a work environment free from the elements is desirable to many producers.
- Hibma, John. “Taking good care of the babies.” Progressive Dairyman.
- “Hoop Structures for Livestock – Beef.” Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. SEE LINKS FOR RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS AND EXTENSION REPORTS.
- “Hoop-Ta-Do.” Agriculture.com
- Sheehan, Krista. “In hoop barn heaven.” Dairy Star.
- Shouse, Shawn, Mark Honeyman, and Jay Hammon. “Hoop Barns for Beef Cattle.” MidWest Plan Service: Agricultural Engineers Digest.
- Sweeter, Wendy. “Midwest feeding operations expand, revamp with hoop barns.” Progressive Cattleman.
- Sweeter, Wendy. “Confined cow-calf production.” Progressive Cattleman.