Comparison of Construction Costs for Vegetative Treatment Systems in the Midwestern United States

Lawrence, John
Bond, Bradley
Burns, Robert
Henry, Christopher
Helmers, Matthew
Trooien, Todd
Pohl, Stephen
Moody, Lara
Helmers, Matthew
Lawrence, John
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Vegetative treatment systems (VTSs) provide an alternative to containment basin systems for beef feedlot runoff control. Beef producers in the Midwestern United States have shown an increasing interest in using VTSs as a perceived lower cost option to containment basin systems. This article reports the actual construction costs associated with 23 VTSs (nine on permitted Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and 14 on non-permitted Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs)) and four containment basins located throughout Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. The VTS construction costs are reported on a per head space basis in 2009 adjusted dollars for each system. Cost comparisons are presented for CAFO and AFO facilities, and by system type. Additionally, estimated construction cost comparisons between open feedlots with VTS systems, open feedlots with containment basins, monoslope barns and hoop structures for beef production systems are provided. Results from the cost comparison indicate the average construction cost in 2009 dollars for an AFO or CAFO is $655 per head space for animals housed in a monoslope barn with a concrete floor and $395 per head space for animals housed in a hoop structure. For AFOs and CAFOs, the average cost of an earthen lot with a containment basin costs is $361 per head space, while the average cost of an earthen lot implemented with a VTS is $283 per head space. If only the feedlot runoff control system is considered, VTSs designed for CAFO facilities are less expensive on average to construct ($85 per head space on average) than traditional containment basins ($136 per head space on average). Similarly for AFO feedlot runoff control systems, a VTS was less expensive to build on average ($79 per head space on average.) than a containment basin on a similar facility ($205 per head space). The data indicated on average the least expensive VTS for an AFO is a gravity VTS ($54 per head space average.) followed by a sprinkler VTS ($94 per head space average.) and a pump and gravity VTS ($101 per head space average.). Statistical analysis showed no significant difference between the VTS construction cost per head space of cattle for an AFO compared to a CAFO (p=0.07, alpha=0.05) while there was a statistical difference between system type (p=0.02, alpha=0.05).


This article is from Applied Engineering in Agriculture 27, no. 3 (2011): 413–423.