It is crucial for farmers who raise finishing pigs to be aware of the various housing options available for their livestock, including the hoop barn structure. While this type of housing is known to serve as a successful alternative to more standard structures, there are various advantages and disadvantages based on each grower’s unique circumstances or overall marketing goals.
What is a Hoop Barn?
A hoop barn is a low-cost, greenhouse-like structure that uses a deep-bedding system. They are Quonset-shaped, can be made with wood sides and posts, and include tubular steel arches. The top of the structures are typically covered with a UV-resistant, polyvinyl canvas material. More durable hoop barn structures are made with concrete stem walls.
When used as livestock housing, especially for pigs, these structures typically have earthen floors with straw bedding and a concrete area for watering and feeding. Hooped shelters are designed to mimic pigs’ natural behavior of segregating areas for feeding, sleeping and dunging, while remaining a cost-effective option for smaller-scale operations.
Hoop Barn Advantages
- Lower fixed costs and overall energy costs
- Quick and easy to construct
- Lower taxes and insurance rates
- Versatile structures that can be short-term or can be repurposed for other types of livestock, equipment, and storage
- Allow for smaller and more manageable groups
- Easier to accommodate natural animal behavior
- Output lower levels of concentrated manure gases
- Often approved as animal welfare-friendly
- Naturally raised animals in hoop structures are often higher-valued animals when marketed to high-end consumers or restaurants
Hoop Barn Disadvantages
- Potential for health issues from parasites and roundworms
- Can be difficult to manage bedding if not cleaned regularly
- Requires more manual labor for handling bedding and manure
- Additional cost for bedding, especially when large quantities are required
- Fire and wind insurance can be more costly
- Seasonality side effects – for example, flies during warmer months and condensation in winter months due to high humidity
- Tendency for pigs to have slightly fatter carcasses during winter months
- Difficulty preventing birds and other disease-carrying animals from entering
Tips for Finishing Hogs in Hoop Barns
Finishing animals in hooped shelters can be a wonderful investment with a low-cost start-up. Naturally raised animals raised in hoop structures can often be marketed to high-end customers and earn a faster return on investment. If you’re considering a hoop barn for your livestock, consider the following tips:
- Hoop building structures should be built as “cold barns”
- Waterers must be frost-free or no-freeze in colder climates; extra nipple waters may be required in summer months or in warmer climates
- Deep bedding is the key to performance success – it should be made of organic matter, with a dry area maintained for dunging and resting
- Lights are suggested if pig performance is monitored after dark or if they’re on an automated management system
- Plan for approximately one watering space per every 15-20 pigs
- Adequate ventilation is necessary (even during the winter) due to the moisture created by the bedding and the hogs themselves
- Keep a tight maintenance schedule; check the entire structure every 12 months, and check for tears in the tarp or excessive rust on steel structures every 6 months
Most hooped shelters are accepted in the United States as animal welfare-friendly structures. Some studies have even shown that pigs finished in hoop shelters consistently ate more and grew faster when compared to more conventional shelters.
In addition to improved animal welfare, adding automated feeding and weighing for finishing animals in hoop barns can greatly improve animal management, especially when it comes to marketing animals. That’s where the Osborne Weight Watcher Growth Management System comes in.
Osborne Weight Watcher™ Growth Management System
The Osborne Weight Watcher™ Growth Management System offers complete growth management for finishing pigs in large pens in both traditional finishing and hoop barn finishing. The system allows farmers to sort pigs by weight to enable target feeding throughout the growth cycle and automatically sort pigs when it comes time to market.
A successful Weight Watcher System is designed on the concrete area designated for feeding and drinking. This area is divided in three parts, separating two feeding pens from a drinking area. Animals freely flow from the watering area to the feeding (and adjacent bedding) area through an automated sorting scale: the Osborne Survey Scale. The Survey Scale weighs each animal as they pass through it, utilizing their natural movement from eating to drinking to resting. Growth rates of the group can be monitored throughout allowing for improved phase feeding and accelerating time to market. Up to 500 animals can be accommodated in a single Weight Watcher System.
The feeding pens are divided into two separate areas, one meant for lighter-weight animals and one for heavier or average-weight animals. Animals sorted into the light-weight pen can be fed a ration that will accelerate gain so they “catch up” to the rest of the group. Pigs sorted to the heavy pen can be fed a ration that maximizes the return on gain. Using two different rations allows farmers to match nutrients to the groups’ growth rate and decrease wasted nutrients.
When it comes time to market, animals meeting the sort criteria can be automatically sorted into one of the feeding pens for easy load-out. By the end of the turn, animals are so accustomed to moving through the scale and from pen-to-pen, that loading them is fast and easy.
Contact Osborne Livestock Equipment
Osborne is ready to help you design your finishing plan to get the most out of your hoop structure, with products that increase efficiency and your bottom line. Implementing a Weight Watcher System and no-waste Big Wheel feeders allow for improved management capabilities and cutting time to market. Let us help you get started by requesting a quote today!