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Roofless Feedlot With Slatted Floor
It's unusual to find a slatted floor in an open Ontario feedlot but Bob Ballantyne and Doug Maus like theirs.
Six years ago these partners installed a manure pit and slats in part of their Ayr, Ont. feedlot as the first step to build a slatted floor barn.
However, they discovered it wasn't necessary to cover the slats and that's the way it is today.
While it works well, both men quickly point out they wouldn't recommend the idea to everyone, particularly in areas of heavier snowfall. They run approximately 180 head of cattle on the open slats, 180 head in the rest of the yard with an open-front barn and 500 head in a covered slatted barn.
There are several reasons why the slatted yard concept has worked for them. The key is they also have the open-fronted barn to turn to if weather conditions turn bad.
"I would not use such a system without a backup barn," explains Maus. "It wouldn't be humane. We use the slats year round and know they work, but there have been several occasions when we had to take the cattle off the slats in sleet storms. That kind of weather is very hard on cattle."
Heat Causes Stress
Heat stress is more of a concern than cold stress. "Cattle are more susceptible to heat, especially heavy cattle," said Maus. Although the yard does not have any direct shade to protect it against the heat in summer, it is situated where there is a fair breeze blowing through it.
"We have moved the cattle off the slats once or twice in periods of very hot weather but we don't let them have the run of the conventional barn," said Ballantyne. "You have to keep them on the slats constantly or the manure will build up."
The breeze, so beneficial in summer, is not appreciated in the winter. A plywood windbreak was erected to provide some extra protection. One of the problems with keeping cattle on the slats in winter is a build up of ice. However, a full pen, the windbreak and a sunny day take care of that.
"As soon as the sun is out, the slatted area is dry. With the conventional open yard there is a pile of mud and manure when the ice starts to melt," said Ballantyne.
Maus figures they saved approximately $70 per head in capital cost at the time they installed the slats by not putting a roof over them. He admits that feed requirements are higher in cold weather but feels the initial savings far outweigh the extra feed costs. Since Maus also runs cattle in a slatted floor barn and open-front barn he knows what he's talking about when he says, "We get our best gains from cattle on the open slats."
Management varies with the seasons. In the winter they pack a few more cattle onto the slats and in summer reduce numbers. Heavier cattle do better than light calves on the slats in the winter and the opposite is true in summer.
Both partners agreed that cattle are a lot cleaner on open slats (than on covered slats) because they're exposed to the sun and rain. Health appears to be improved, too. "We don't have records to prove it but health problems are minimal on this set up," said Maus.
The manure pit was constructed with a ramp leading down underneath the slats in case there were problems emptying sediment. "The ramp is something that we would never include again," said Ballantyne. "It creates a draft of cold air up under the slats in winter which contributes to the ice problem."
"If a feeder wants to change from a conventional feedlot to a slatted floor barn, he could build it in stages over a period of years," said Ballantyne. "This might be a way of doing it."
Reprinted with permission from Cattleman Magazine, Winnipeg, Canada.

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1981 - Volume #5, Issue #6