North Dakota State University * Dickinson Research Extension Center
1133 State Avenue, Dickinson, ND 58601 Voice: (701) 483-2348 FAX: (701) 483-2005


James L. Nelson and Thomas J. Conlon
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The slotted board fence is an effective shelter for beef cattle in western North Dakota. It has been compared with the solid board fence and pole sheds for feedlot shelter for growing-finishing calves in year-around trials at the Dickinson Branch Station, the results being published in North Dakota Research Report No 58, May 1975 by James L. Nelson, William E. Dinusson and Raymond J. Douglas. These researchers concluded that there were no marked differences in rate of gain, efficiency of feed conversion or health of the cattle in these trials.

Since 1969, the slotted fence has been used successfully at Dickinson as winter shelter for the breeding herd. During the five years that this type of shelter has been used for the breeding herd, satisfactory weight gains have been maintained, calving percentages have been very good and general herd health has been satisfactory.

The system in use at the Dickinson Experiment Station for handling the beef breeding herd uses the slotted fence shelter during the winter period in combination with pole sheds and clean, dry lots for calving. The pole sheds are next to the hospital barn, making it comparatively easy to move animals needing extra attention to the hospital facilities.

A well-bedded calf creep is provided in each pole shed for additional comfort and protection for the calves.

The slotted fence shelters in use at the Dickinson Station are 9 feet high, built of full-cut 1" x 6" rough boards set vertically, with a 1 " slot between boards. The slots equal 20 percent of the total area of a fence built this way.

Table 1. Cow Weights During the Winter Period 1969-1974.
Year   Weight on:     Difference
1969-70 Nov. 26 1072 Mar. 19 1110 +38
1970-71 Nov. 30 1082 Mar. 17 1123 +41
1971-72 Dec. 3 1079 Mar. 15 998 -81
1972-73 Dec. 1 1046 Feb. 28 1107 +61
1973-74 Dec. 3 1052 Jan. 31 1086 +34

The idea as well as the design for the shelter in use at the Station was borrowed from a prototype windbreak in use at the University of Saskatchewan livestock feedlot at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, where Canadian agricultural engineers Moysey and McPherson (1) conducted field tests on it.

Table 2. Per Cent Calf Crop, 1969-1974.
Year Cows Calves Per Cent Calf Crop
1969-70 81 77 95
1970-71 85 83 98
1971-72 91 90 99 (Two sets twins)
1972-73 105 101 96 (One set twins)
1973-74 119 115 96

These researchers recommended a fence with a porosity of approximately 25 per cent for best sheltering below the mid-height of the windbreak, and concluded that the size of the slots is of little consequence if the minimum dimension is in the range of to 2 inches.

The suggested construction detail shown in Figure 1 uses board widths of 6 to 8 inches, because suitable combinations of porosity and slot width can be provided with lumber of these dimensions.

Other Considerations

Drifting snow can become a problem. Trapping snow by the use of properly located snow fence on the upwind side of the shelter is recommended.

If the shelters are around the feedlots used during hot summer weather designs that permit removal of panels to provide better air circulation are suggested.

Shelters for use in larger holding areas should be constructed within the holding area, and not as part of a line fence. This permits use of both sides of the shelter for protection, depending on wind direction.

Nelson is animal husbandman and Conlon is superintendent, Dickinson Branch Experiment Station.

Appreciation is expressed to Dorothea G. McCullough, departmental editor, for assistance and suggestions in preparation of this article, and to Roger H. Cossette, extension agricultural engineer, for drafting the suggested construction detail, Figure 1.

Moysey, E.B. and McPherson. 1966. Effect of porosity on performance of windbreaks. Transactions of the American Society Agricultural Engineers. 9:1, 33-36.

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