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Raisin’ beef

By Staff | May 29, 2009

A long alley with the feed bunks 16 feet from the outdoors keeps the bunks free from snow and rain. The cattle are protected from harsh weather elements.

SANBORN – Dave Grooters always knew he wanted to try his hand at farming full time. Raised on a farm in this northcentral O’Brien County community, he was always around livestock.

He graduated from college with a mechanics degree. He said that after eight years of part time farming and working off-farm, he knew it was time to become a full-time farmer.

Looking at different options that included the possibility of purchasing an established cattle feeding facility, Dave Grooters and his father Glenn made the decision to expand the cattle feeding facilities on the Grooters’ home place.

Working with a set budget, the Grooters said they wanted a building that would withstand their Buffalo Ridge winds, not have poles to clean around, plus good air quality inside and out the building.

“Older-styled cattle buildings had worked with roofs that didn’t match up,” said Glenn. “We thought that working with engineers that we could design something that could create a vacuum chimney effect giving the facility good air quality.”

This web truss design works in the large 130-by-660-feet cattle feeding building on the Grooters’ farm. This design takes the place of using rafters and should last longer as it will not rust from condensation, said Troy Hartman, of Farm & Ranch Building Supply in Norfolk.

Using that updraft concept the Grooters drew up a design that they showed to Troy Hartman, Farm & Ranch Building Supply in Norfolk.

“It is a cool design,” said Hartman. “I have to give 100 percent credit to the Grooters. All I did was write it up to match Iowa’s building code.”

The building has features of a dairy loafing barn, with emphasis on ventilation and moisture control. An engineered wooden eye joist truss or web truss design was employed.

The advantage of using wood in a livestock facility is that over time steel-on-steel material will rust due to the nature of acidity in livestock waste.

Other structural soundness comes from reinforced poured concrete. The night before work was to begin, Dave got a call from the engineer that he felt stronger rebar was needed.

The order changed from 1/2-inch rebar to 5/8-inch, double-web rebar. During the building process, the contractor talked daily with the engineer. Once the foundation was secure in May, it took eight weeks of actual building. The Grooters were putting cattle into it during the last week of July.

Grooters describes the facility as being similar to putting two monoslope style buildings together that don’t connect in the center. Instead, that opening at 29 feet creates an updraft that draws ammonia and dust out.

Grooters Feedlot is a 1,500-head permitted inside and 999 outside feedlot. They do a combination of custom feeding cattle and feeder their own herd. Eleven pens of various sizes are under roof.

The facility is designed to have the pens in the interior with feed bunks on the outer perimeters. But in far enough that 16 foot alleyway allows the feeder wagon to be under roof.

Having the feed bunks that far in has eliminated cleaning snow out of the bunks and keeps the bedding pack dried, said Dave.

The question remained as to whether the design would give the feed efficiency, weight of gain and cattle comfort the Grooters wanted. It has.

There are no dead air pockets inside, they noted, and said the bedding stays drier because of the updraft. The cattle do well.

“We are beginning our third year with the building,” said Grooters. “It has worked well. The time spent planning was indeed worth it.”

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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