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Livestock Greenhouse

 
Walter Jeffries
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Anyone here have a large FarmTek (or other company brand) 'greenhouse' for livestock?

These are the large unattached ones. I'm looking at the 36' to 50' wide by 100' long.

We have done a number of smaller ones out of cattle panel over the years and are considering setting up a larger greenhouse on 4' high sidewalls for our pigs to have more shelter space in the winter. Like with the ones we've done in the past we would leave the south east end, the lee side, open for ventilation and have cross ventilation control.

The hope is to temper our climate a little. The pigs would still go outside like they do now with the open sheds we have but this would provide more protection and headroom and reduce hay consumption while improving growth rate.

We're considering the translucent 90% and the 'clear' 55% transmission coverings. Ideally in the summer we would be able to use it for a greenhouse (we have short cool summers).

Wind and snow loading are a big concern. I would setup an internal support - we don't need clear span ability.

I would be interested in hearing people's experiences with these kits.
 
Milo Jones
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Walter, there is a farmer/blogger in the PNW who may have some insight. Here are a few of her greenhouse posts:

Winter Eggs

Greenhouse Questions

Greenhouse Thoughts Part II
 
Ann Torrence
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We bought our 20x48 kit from Growers Supply, which seems to be the same company. We had some customization needs for the kit, they were a dream to work with.

My husband and I are in no way DIY builders, but we managed this with the help of one hired hand for part of the time, and borrowing a friend's scaffolding. You probably have a bucket loader that you can use for the heavy lifting of the rafters, but the 20' ones we could manage ourselves. You still need some way to safely get up to the top to secure the rafters to the purlins. We should have bought a better battery drill and more batteries. We went through many metal bits.

I watched a ton of Youtube videos, read all the instructions, and still there were a few head-scratching moments, but we got it done. Ours has roll up sides, so it doesn't hold heat overnight very well, but the protection from the wind and weather and the daytime heating of the soil made the difference between keeping greens alive and not all winter. I estimate we are seeing 25-30 degrees over ambient on all but the cloudiest day, with both doors open. We house our hens in there for the winter so they go in and out to lay eggs.

I made a time-lapse of our project. There's a little trick with tennis balls for pulling the plastic, I need to make another shorter slower time-lapse to show that part. Basically, you wrap a tennis ball in the corner of the plastic before you tie on the rope used to pull the sheet over the rafters. The tennis ball, like putting a rock in a handkerchief, gives something for the rope to grip around. I didn't really believe it would work, but pulling the plastic was one of the more straightforward parts of the job. I also put some flags on the ends of the large plastic sheet at the mid-point so we would know when we had centered the sheet over the ridge line. The wiggle wire tracks are ingenious. I helped a friend pull plastic over her heated greenhouse and they used furring strips, the wiggle wire seems way better for the long-term integrity of the plastic and ease of changing it out when required in the future.

Hope that helps. We aren't on the scale you are working at, but the assembly should be the about the same, a few more parts If you look at the video, the clouds are amazing--we had huge monsoons last year that slowed the project down but made some awesome skies for a few weeks.

 
Jen Shrock
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We have a local agricultural fair that had a domed cow barn that collapsed under the weight of snow. http://www.meadvilletribune.com/local/x546250542/Crawford-County-Fair-barn-collapses It was a different manufacturer. A little different style than what Ann is showing.
 
Milo Jones
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Ann Torrence wrote:...you wrap a tennis ball in the corner of the plastic before you tie on the rope used to pull the sheet over the rafters. The tennis ball, like putting a rock in a handkerchief, gives something for the rope to grip around. I didn't really believe it would work, but pulling the plastic was one of the more straightforward parts of the job. I also put some flags on the ends of the large plastic sheet at the mid-point so we would know when we had centered the sheet over the ridge line. The wiggle wire tracks are ingenious. I helped a friend pull plastic over her heated greenhouse and they used furring strips, the wiggle wire seems way better for the long-term integrity of the plastic and ease of changing it out when required in the future.



Thanks for this Ann. Especially about the wiggle wire. I had seen it advertised and was uncertain if it was worth the money or just a gimmick.
 
Ann Torrence
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Milo Jones wrote:
Thanks for this Ann. Especially about the wiggle wire. I had seen it advertised and was uncertain if it was worth the money or just a gimmick.

I'm glad it helped. We actually managed to get two layers of plastic AND two wires into the channel over the end wall arches, will make changing out the sidewalls really easy. The instructions to sandwich the end wall plastic between the rafter and the channel seemed like it would be a planning for trouble down the road. So we tried putting the channel directly on the end rafter, then layering first the end wall, wiggle wire, then the top cover with more wiggle wire and it worked. I had bought extra wire because the sales man suggested to double it up to help secure it in our infernal wind. Roaring 40s here, I tell ya. Some days, I'm shocked the thing is still standing. We keep meaning to install some RV tie downs for extra protection.

This all reminds me that I have some leftover wiggle wire channels that I can use when I build a couple mobile shade structures for my goats next week. Will use it to clamp down a blue tarp or some shade cloth onto some as yet to be designed lightweight framework. I forgot all about them. Wonder where they got put...
 
Cj Sloane
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Walter Jeffries wrote:Anyone here have a large FarmTek (or other company brand) 'greenhouse' for livestock?


I've kept my chickens in the FarmTek greenhouse the last 2 winters but the chickens were a little rough on the plastic this year. Not sure how you'd convince the pigs to not dig under them.

I'm actually amazed the plastic has lasted this long. It's the 4th year of the same plastic. My husband did a great job securing it. Now that it's been through 4 winters the wood is rotting out.

Pretty sure Joel Salatin keeps chicken in his and then uses it as a non-commercial greenhouse for his own produce.

I was going suggest an NRCS EQIP grant but they specifically wont let farmers house animals in them.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Cj Verde wrote:I've kept my chickens in the FarmTek greenhouse the last 2 winters but the chickens were a little rough on the plastic this year. Not sure how you'd convince the pigs to not dig under them.


Aye, I've seen what chickens do to plastic. Kneewalls is my plan to keep the pigs off the plastic. Our pigs don't dig down.

CJ, is yours double plastic with inflation or single plastic?

Cj Verde wrote:I'm actually amazed the plastic has lasted this long. It's the 4th year of the same plastic. My husband did a great job securing it.


What did he do for securing that you think makes the difference. That's a big concern of mine. We get a lot of wind.

Cj Verde wrote:I was going suggest an NRCS EQIP grant but they specifically wont let farmers house animals in them.


Thanks for the thought, but I would not deal with NRCS EQIP. I've read the fine print on their contracts. I'll not be signing my soul away.

Ann Torrence wrote:I'm glad it helped. We actually managed to get two layers of plastic AND two wires into the channel over the end wall arches


Ann, is yours double plastic with inflation or single plastic?

The video was great. Clouds were lovely too!


Milo, thanks for the links. Good reading.
 
Ann Torrence
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Walter Jeffries wrote:
Ann, is yours double plastic with inflation or single plastic?

Single wall. The only doubling of plastic is where the end walls are layered under the top cover. Everyone says the double wall is more wind-worthy, but I thought we'd start simple. I gather it is doable to convert. I don't have power out there yet, so running the fan would be another thing to figure out. It's done what I needed as is.
 
Dan Grubbs
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I've read that a gothic shape is better than standard hoop in climats with decent snow in the winter. Anyone have thoughts on that?
 
Andrew Parker
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Ann, we did a loop through your part of the state a few years ago and it seemed that just about every home in the Rabbit Valley had a double layer hoop house. I suppose it is a requirement in order to get any kind of reasonable growing season at that altitude. We stayed overnight in Torrey and had a very nice time. Beautiful country. I hope it never gets crowded.
 
Cj Sloane
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Dan Grubbs wrote:I've read that a gothic shape is better than standard hoop in climats with decent snow in the winter. Anyone have thoughts on that?


Ours is standard not gothic. It has lasted 2x as long as our gothic shelter logic structures but of course they are different manufacturers. Both shelter logics collapsed after the 2nd winter.
 
Milo Jones
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Cj Verde wrote:Both shelter logics collapsed after the 2nd winter.

That is frightening. Sounds like a lot of time and energy down the drain.
 
Cj Sloane
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Walter Jeffries wrote:
CJ, is yours double plastic with inflation or single plastic?

Cj Verde wrote:I'm actually amazed the plastic has lasted this long. It's the 4th year of the same plastic. My husband did a great job securing it.


What did he do for securing that you think makes the difference. That's a big concern of mine. We get a lot of wind.


Single plastic.

My husband said he just followed the instructions.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Ann Torrence wrote:Single wall. The only doubling of plastic is where the end walls are layered under the top cover. Everyone says the double wall is more wind-worthy, but I thought we'd start simple. I gather it is doable to convert. I don't have power out there yet, so running the fan would be another thing to figure out. It's done what I needed as is.


I don't like blowers due to electric failure and mechanical failure. Batteries for backup are one solution for the frequent winter electric outages. Also, I live on the side of a mountain and have a way of creating significant positive pressure at the top of a chimney. I have earth air tubes that create very strong air flow and I've wondered if I can utilize that passing through the doubled cover. An experiment for someday.


Dan Grubbs wrote:I've read that a gothic shape is better than standard hoop in climats with decent snow in the winter. Anyone have thoughts on that?


I've heard some people say that and some people say the opposite. I've done barrel vault (half circle) for years with the small greenhouses as well as our cottage. They tend to accumulate snow at the peak but are stronger in the sides of the arc. The problem is the sides dump and then the loads become uneven compressing from the top without opposing force on the barrel vault greenhouse. This spreads the arc and drops the middle which is exactly the failure mode I frequently see. With a gothic style arch then the angle of the sides could be set for proper dumping slope for a longer distance and the wrong sloped area is minimal at the top. Tensors and trusses help both.

However both worry me with spanning distances when we get deep fast snows (3' in a night) capped with ice. I have seen so many greenhouses and areas crushed that I'm very nervous about snow and wind loading. With the small greenhouse we've built in the past I simply made them strong enough but with a far larger greenhouse (42'x100'?) it is a bit more daunting. To strengthen it I am considering putting in support like this:



We plan to build the pony wall concrete support at the bottom first so pigs and chickens leave the film alone. Then built the interior support which will have the extra function of giving us a platform to work up high when putting the greenhouse together.

I don't actually need clear span which is often sought in greenhouses for tractor mobility. We will use our tractors for setup and cleanout to put in wood chips and clean out the compost but it is a linear path driving end to end. The two or three (3 shown above) linear paths or bays will be cross cut by fences to subdivide into paddocks. In the winter we break our pig herds up from their summer numbers of 50 to 150 animals per herd to smaller groups of 10 to 50, maybe 100 in some herds. In the summer we have many paddocks but in the winter we have fewer paddocks. This is part of what I would like to change in the greenhouse as well as having the greenhouse protected paddocks be more like our October/November seasons for the smaller pigs and chickens. They can still go out on the snow pack which they do from our existing small greenhouses but would have a more sheltered area to be in when they want. This would also improve the managed rotational grazing in the winter which gives me the chance to empty a paddock for a month mid-winter. The pigs walk about 500' to their whey in the winter. The walk helps with spreading manure and gives them exercise plus they like getting outdoors and the fresh air is good for them. By comparison in the summer they walk 2,000' to 5,000' to the mountain pastures where they graze. I'm trying to simulate our warm seasons more while still maintaining access to the fresh air and sunshine when they go outside the greenhouses.
 
Cj Sloane
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Milo Jones wrote:
Cj Verde wrote:Both shelter logics collapsed after the 2nd winter.

That is frightening. Sounds like a lot of time and energy down the drain.


I do have to say that we were warned but I went ahead because I needed someplace under cover to store hay. In hindsight, once of those metal-roofed, open sided garages would've been better.

Not only were the shelter logics gothic style, but the plastic was much thicker. Despite that, it got tears quicker. It was not one piece and out of the box the glue wasn't great.

My husband was able to reassemble one of them but the other is a loss. Looks like the metal tubes bent.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Has anyone used the grey PVC? It comes in 20' lengths.

Cold weather durability?

Longevity?
 
Walter Jeffries
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Raye Beasley
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I don't have a lot of pigs, usually no more than 10 -20 over winter. I like everything on my place to be dual purpose. My winter pig shelters are made by cutting a sheet of treated plywood in half lengthwise (2' high walls) I than make 2 x 4 studied walls with the treated plywood on the outside. I insulate the walls and use OSB board to cover the inside of the walls. I like to make 8' long sections which can be attached to one another with screws to make longer or shorter shelters. I frame a removable dutch style top/bottom door in one end and make a solid drop down hatch on the arched part of the back end for forking in bedding. The front door section is rectangular and sits outside the smaller height of the arched cattle panels. I use zip ties to attach the cattle panel to the door section where they meet.

I take 4' x 32' welded wire cattle panals and arch them inside the framed walls with the ends on the ground inside the walls. The houses are 8' wide. This makes a lower roof which is better for warmth. I cover the cattle panels with lots of old hay and than go over that with 6 mil plastic stapled to the outside at the top of the wood walls This makes it snow and water tight. The pigs don't mess with it, but I cap the edges of the plastic with 2 x 4s to keep the wind from getting under and beating it up. The 4" squares of the cattle panel keep the pigs from eating the ceiling hay from inside. The cattle panel will hold any snow that accumulates.

Come spring, I kick the pigs out of the garden and into the pasture, remove the plastic and hay (now garden mulch) and raise the cattle panels so they sit on top of the 2' walls. Replace the plastic and now I have a greenhouse that I can walk into. The top half of the dutch door can now opened to allow people to walk into the 6' high mini green house tunnel. The pigs have spent the early spring working up the inside of the greenhouse and surrounding garden beds while also eating down the winter bedding pack which I plant into directly.

 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Raye, do you mean 16' cattle panels? I've never heard of them coming in 32' lengths, and the dimensions you describe are what I get when I use a 16' panel.

Kathleen
 
Walter Jeffries
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We did finally build our hoop barn, our Ark, which is on a greenhouse frame. See this post:

http://www.permies.com/t/50210/pigs/Winter-Housing-Ark

-Walter
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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