Mono-Slope Research Project

Beef Cattle, Animal Manure Management October 04, 2013|Print

Photo of a bedded beef barn in _____, South Dakota.Researchers and university specialists from USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC), South Dakota State University, and Iowa State University are working on a three-year study looking at mono-slope beef barns and how to improve cattle and environmental performance.

How Do Monoslope Barns Stack Up For Air Quality?

One purpose of the study is to gather baseline data for the levels of gas emissions from mono-slope beef barns for housing beef. The study will involve a total of four mono-slope beef barns in South Dakota and Iowa.

Photo of a bedded beef barn in Royal, Iowa.The study is also evaluating two different manure-handling systems to determine which system emits lower levels of gases in the air. One barn system contains a manure pack which remains in the barn until the cattle are removed. The other barn system involves the weekly removal and storage of manure from around the bedded pack until it can be field applied. The study is also monitoring the effects of season, diets and water consumption.

The Tri-State Air Quality Project uses science to determine air emissions from a mono-slope beef barn. Dick Nicolai, retired Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering professor at South Dakota State University, explains the origin of the project.

Open Houses Provide Opportunities to Learn More

Over 200 people from Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska attended the Mono-Slope Beef Barn Open House in June of 2011. The open house was hosted by Ron and Clayton Christensen of Royal, Iowa. Participants rotated among seven stations that featured barn and manure management, cost-sharing opportunities, the tri-state air quality project and environmental regulations.

Photo of a bedded beef barn in _____, South Dakota.
It was standing room only as participants listened to station presentations in the alleyway of the mono-slope barn.

The open house was organized by ISU Extension, SDSU Ag and Biosystems Engineering, and the USDA Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center, NE. Sponsors included Animal Medical Centers of Spencer, Clay County Cattlemen’s Association, Clay County Farm Bureau, Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, Farm Credit Services of Emmetsburg, Spencer Ag Center and Spencer Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee. See the proceedings.

A similar open house was hosted in South Dakota in August of 2011. The open house was hosted by Goodwin Heritage Cattle Company, with approximately 125 people in attendance from South Dakota and neighboring states. Sponsors included Coteau Hills Cattlemen’s Association, Watertown Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee, SPN & Associates, Glacial Lakes Energy LLC., Landmark Builders Inc., South Dakota Farm Bureau, Ag United for South Dakota, Banner Associates and Form-A-Feed, Inc.

As a result of the open houses:

  • 95% had a better understanding of the air quality regulations and why this research is needed*
  • 88% learned where they could find financial resources to construct a mono-slope barn*
  • 89% had improved knowledge about how gases and dust are measured*

*Based on 19.7% participation in a short survey after each open house

Mindy Spiehs
Mindy Spiehs talks about the Tri-State Air Quality Project.

Learn more about the successes of these open houses.

Another field day was attended by state and federal legislators, state policy makers and stakeholders representing Extension and university specialists. Enthusiasm for research efforts was proclaimed by the legislators. See what they learned.

NW Iowa cattlemen listened to Mindy Spiehs, researcher with USDA ARS Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center, share progress about the Tri-State Air Quality Project.  The update and tour at the Christensen barn were part of a NW regional meeting sponsored by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association on August 23, 2012.


Related Information


Funding for this much-needed research comes from Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2010-85112-20510 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and is one of 11 projects across the U.S. that addresses air quality issues. The projects will provide research-based information to develop effective mitigation strategies and best management practices to enhance air quality.

Inquiries about the tri-state air quality project may be directed to:

Beth Doran, Iowa State University (phone: 712-737-4230)

Erin Cortus, South Dakota State University (phone: 605-688-5141)

Mindy Spiehs, U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (phone: 402-762-4271)



project partner logos - South Dakota State University, USDA-ARS, Iowa State University, and University of Nebraska - Lincoln