Beef Cattle Housing and Feedlot Facilities

By the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food department, Governement of Saskatchewan.
calendar icon 13 May 2004
clock icon 3 minute read


This publication discusses components and alternatives to be considered when establishing a beef cattle facility. Generally, beef enterprises are either cow/calf, feeder, or a combination of both. Cow/calf enterprises usually have less investment in facilities than do feeder operations. Feeder cattle facilities require more confinement pens, more automation of feeding systems and less need for roofed shelters. Each type of facility must be designed accordingly.

Various plans are available from the Canada Plan Service (CPS). To view or download follow the link to: Farm Structures and Handling Systems.

Environmental Concerns -  A permit may be required for new, renovated or expanded livestock facilities.

General Requirements

Development of housing and feedlot facilities requires integration of space, shelter, feed, water, waste management and handling facilities with the type of beef operation being considered. These requirements must be adapted to natural features of the site and organized for efficient operation.

Cow-calf herds can graze on open pasture during summer but need some protection in winter. Cattle being fed for market are usually penned year round.

Poor cattle performance can be attributed more to muddy conditions, harsh wind and wet resting areas than to low air temperature. All animal types and sizes must have adequate wind protection. Natural bush offers good protection. Properly designed windbreak fences and open front sheds supply adequate protection but involve a cost. Additional protection may be necessary for specialized groups such as cows when calving or purebred animals.

Keep the design simple. Share water bowls between two pens maximum. Pen layout should be rectangular if possible. Group pens such that the system is modular.

Extra pens should be easy to add by simply extending a few alleys and constructing the pens themselves. The feed processing area, cattle handling facilities, calving barn and existing gates should not need relocation when herd expansion occurs.
Alley width is important. Determine what the alley will be used for. Will it move cattle, machinery or both? Make alleys for moving cattle only 8 to 14 ft. (2.4 to 4.2 m) wide. Machinery alleys (for feed trucks and wagons) should be 16 to 18 ft. (4.8 to 5.4 m) wide. Widths greater than 20 ft. (6 m) make cattle movement very difficult and are waste space for machinery movement. However, when machinery must turn within an alley, the width must be increased to as much as 40 ft. (12 m). If a tractor with front-end loader is to enter the pens from a narrow alley, diagonally placed pen entry gates increase the effective alley width. Always take into account that manure removal equipment must be able to manoeuvre into, within and out of pens. Custom manure hauling businesses use very large trucks and spreaders. Gates and alleys must be designed to accommodate this equipment. A generally accepted width of access gate for machinery is 16 ft. (4.8 m).

All alleys must accommodate snow removal and drainage from heavy rains. This drainage should not enter cattle pens. Alleys must have a solid base and an all weather surface. A base mixture of compacted gravel/clay topped with gravel makes an excellent alley.

To view the full report including tables and designs click here.

March 2004

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