Wendonside farmer Mike Thompson has built a wintering barn for his beef cattle. Farm worker Evan Ferris (pictured) said the cattle were expected to gain weight faster and be sent to the works earlier to take advantage of the higher returns on the spring beef schedule. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara
By sheltering beef cattle in a newly built barn during
winter, Wendonside farmer Mike Thompson hopes to take
advantage of the premium payments on the spring beef
Although housing dairy cattle in wintering barns has been
common practice for several years, Mr Thompson is one of the
first in the region to house beef cattle during winter, and
the system has several advantages.
''This is the first winter we have had them in the barn,''
farm worker Evan Ferris said.
''The whole idea is to get them to hit their weights early
and get the best schedule [prices] at the beginning of the
The wintering barn was built next to the cattle yards on the
350ha sheep and beef Wendonside property.
In addition to about 500 cattle, the farm runs 1350 ewes and
Most of the balance of the property grows baleage and
The remaining cattle, including a small herd of Limousins,
are on crop in a sheltered paddock.
The 75m x 25m open-sided barn houses about 350 cattle in
One end is partially enclosed and the Simmental/Angus and
Angus cattle have access to a large sunny concrete feed pad.
''They like it in there,'' Mr Ferris said.
He said they were fed baleage four times a day in a long
trough that ran the length of the shed.
Effluent is scraped to one end of the shed and drains into a
120-day storage pond. It then moves through a weeping wall
into another pond, where it will stored for later spraying on
The solids, which include dropped baleage, will also be
worked in to pasture.
Mr Ferris said feeding the stock in the barn four times a day
was far easier and less time-consuming than having them on
Each cows gets about 25kg of baleage a day.
''They can put on about 1.5kg/cow/day if everything goes
right,'' he said.
''Also we wanted to get them off the paddock as it gets too
wet and pugs.''
When the weather gets warmer, the stock will be moved from
the shed to grass for a couple of weeks to ''tidy up'' before
going to the works.
He said he had not noticed any animal health or bullying
One issue they did not anticipate was a problem with a silage
wagon, as it was not suitable for what they wanted to do. A
replacement is on the way, but in the meantime the cattle are
fed baleage, and its long lengths mean a good percentage is
dropped on the ground and swept out to the effluent stack.
Mr Ferris said that once they had the new wagon, the cattle
would be fed baleage and silage chopped into more manageable
As heavy snow in June meant the cattle had to be moved into
the barn quickly, there was no time to weigh them.
He said next year they would weigh them when they first
entered the barn and then again about halfway through the
season, to determine weight gain.
In addition, some of the heavier cattle would be sent to the
works earlier, allowing other cattle to take their place in
Mr Ferris entered a Limousin into the Otago Southland Beef
Competition in June and won the Alan Dodd trophy for best
home-bred animal for the second time.
''They won the competition because they are good,'' he said.
''They are not a big cow, but they yield better, and are easy
''They are lean with more meat on the carcass,'' he said.
- by Yvonne O'Hara