New deep-pit beef gestation barn opens in Pike County IL

Owners of a brand new beef barn, utilizing a 10' deep pit under slats for manure collection, hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on December 10, 2016, at their ranch in Pike County. A large group was on hand, including representatives of the construction company, lumber and materials providers, the Illinois Livestock Developers Group, key commodity groups, financial institutions and engineering services.

While a cool day in the 20's, the crowd was large, enthusiastic and very curious to see the new barn. Some key features found in the new design are listed below:

  1. The barn is a mono-slope design with its axis running east-west, with a high open front to the south.
  2. The building footprint is 82' wide x 188' long. It is designed for 300 gestating cows at 30 sq ft/head or 400 steers at 24 sq ft/head.  This contains a 66' x 146' cattle area and a 16' feed alley along the entire north side.
  3. Cattle are held in 6 pens, each with an open southern exposure and feed bunks on north and south ends.
  4. The floor area is made of concrete slats, covered in 4'x6' rubberized mats (0.8" thickness) with five specialty fasteners per mat, for animal comfort and traction.
  5. A mono-slope barn design allows for rainfall to run off the roof towards the north into "french drains" and away from the building area.
  6. The barn's south side is open, and the building's deep-pit extends outdoors about 16'. This extension to the outside provides animals with access to sunlight and to outdoor conditions and permits some rainfall to enter into the deep pit to increase moisture content for better handling.
  7. The manure pit was sized for twice-yearly pump-out.

As the dust settles on the new build and the owners gain some experience, it will be interesting to learn how the barn performs during hot, still days. Also of keen interest will be issues related to removing the manure from the pit, since it is likely that solids will build up if insufficient rainfall is received --practical methods to mix that slurry up before pump-out are being developed by the industry as this manure handling method begins to take root in beef production.

The use of the deep-pit is novel. It frees management from the daily activities associated with maintaining a bedded pack, eliminates the need to source bedding materials, and would appear to reduce daily labor related to manure substantially. The trade-off, if any, will be in the necessary operations remove the pit contents.