Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Publications

Comparison of steer behavior when housed in a deep-bedded hoop barn versus an open feedlot with shelter

Anna K. Johnson, Iowa State University
Steven M. Lonergan, Iowa State University
W. Darrell Busby, Iowa State University
Shawn C. Shouse, Iowa State University
Dallas L. Maxwell, Iowa State University
Jay D. Harmon, Iowa State University
Mark S. Honeyman, Iowa State University

This article is from Journal of Animal Science 89, no. 6 (June 2011): 1893–1898, doi:10.2527/jas.2010-2877. Posted with permission.


The use of hoop barns as an alternative housing system for beef cattle has not been widely researched. The objectives of this study were to determine the main effects of behavior of steers 1) over winter and summer, 2) when housed in either a hoop barn or a conventional feedlot, and 3) interactions between season and housing system. A total of 960 crossbred Bos taurus steers were used [August 2006 to April 2008 (2 winter and 2 summer trials)]. Steers were housed in either 1 deep-bedded hoop barn (n = 12 pens; 4.65 m2/steer) or 1 open feedlot with shelter (n = 12 pens; 14.7 m2/steer). Steers were ear tagged, implanted, and weighed (414 ± 36 kg) on arrival and allotted to treatments that were balanced for source, BW, and hide color. Behavioral data (3 postures and 2 behaviors) were collected using a 10-min live scan. The experimental unit for behavior was a pen of steers. Behavioral data were arcsine transformed to achieve a normal distribution. There were no (P > 0.05) differences for time spent at bunk or waterer for steers between housing treatments. Steers housed in an open feedlot with shelter spent less time lying and more time standing and walking (P < 0.05) compared with steers housed in a hoop barn. There were no (P = 0.32) differences between seasons for standing. Steers spent more time at the bunk (P < 0.0001) and waterer (P < 0.0001) in the summer compared with the winter. In the winter, steers engaged in more lying (P = 0.0002) and walking (P < 0.0001). Overall, steers stood less (P = 0.006) and spent more time lying (P = 0.024) when housed in a hoop barn than in the open feedlot with shelter regardless of season. Steers housed in the open feedlot with shelter walked more (P < 0.0001) than steers housed in the hoop barn and walked more (P < 0.0001) in winter than in summer months (6 vs. 3%). There were no (P > 0.05) differences in time spent at bunk and waterer between housing systems within season, but time spent at the waterer and bunk decreased (P < 0.05) for both housing systems during the winter. In conclusion, housing 40 steers per pen in a cornstalk-bedded hoop barn at 4.65m2/steer does not result in adverse behavioral alterations and can be considered as a housing alternative for finishing steers in the Midwestern United States when compared with steers fed in an open feedlot with shelter provided.