Steel framed fabric buildings, also commonly known as hoop barns, came on the agriculture scene in 1989 and were used mostly as structures for hog production. Over the years the industry has developed and now practical uses span throughout agriculture.
Popular uses include dairy cattle housing, hay storage, bunkers for feed storage, commodity sheds, manure packs, calving barns and equipment sheds.
The ease of construction is one benefit Darryl Enns’ customers find important. Enns is the owner of Silver Stream Shelters out of Alton, MB Canada. Silver Stream Shelters has U.S. operations in Neche, N.D. and services a large territory.
“We can be in and out in four days and at half the cost of a conventional steel building,” Enns said.
Steel framed fabric buildings also provide an improved environment for livestock according to Marty Lathom of MBC Buildings and Excavating in Pleasant Plains, Ill. They specialize in Winkler Structures for agriculture and commercial uses.
“The buildings will stay 15 degrees warmer in the winter and 15 degrees cooler in the summer,” said Lathom
Lathom said building options include ridge vents. Ridge vents through the center of the building can offer a better environment for the cattle when compared to monoslopes. They take the air up and out of the building and help remove moisture.
Fabric buildings can be a less expensive alternative compared to conventional structures. As an example, on a hog operation the average cost of building is $40 per pig space compared to conventional housing at $100 dollars per pig space. Housing for cattle can be a third of the cost per head verses traditional steel structures according to Enns.
“We see a tremendous business in round bale storage,” Lathom said.
Lathom credits that demand to the amount of hay that is not wasted when stored in a fabric structure. Improved ventilation and protection from the outside elements preserve the hay quality.
“Savings in hay quality and quantity can pay for the barn in about 8 to 10 years,” Enns said.
During calving season a steel frame fabric building can be used as a dual-purpose hay storage barn and calving facility. Lathom explained that some producers will start the hay season feeding out of the south end of the barn. By the time calving season comes around the barn is partially empty. Gates are set up to keep the cattle out of the hay yet provide enough space in the barn to gather the cows beneath the protection of the barn.
MBC Buildings and Excavating offers barns that are designed to set over slats or using the deep bedding system for beef or dairy cattle. The deep bedding system offers a source of semi-composted fertilizer.
Lathom explained that a cattle-finishing barn will have 30 square feet of space per calf. Their barns will have roughly a foot of bunk space, which is above average for fabric structures.
“Not a whole lot of other buildings can offer that. On average others will have 7 to 9 inches of bunk space per calf,” Lathom said.
Building size depends on the customers’ needs. Lathom sells and installs a lot of 38 feet wide by 100 feet long structures for round bale storage. Cattle finishing barns are 42 feet wide. The largest cattle finishing barn that they have installed was 350 feet long and would hold 350 head of fat cattle.
A desirable building site is important. Make sure there is a proper distance between a building and wooded areas to protect the fabric cover. Lathom suggested speaking with the installer to ensure an acceptable location is chosen.
Enns said Silver Stream’s fabric covers have a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years. With inflation taken into account, hoop barn fabric replacement costs 80 to 85 cents per square foot.


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