Head up the drive of Poe Livestock Farms near Franklin, and the first thing you will notice is there are more hoop barns than any other type of building on the farm. In fact, you can count six hoop structures on the property.
“They’re proving to be great for our sheep operation for several reasons,” says Stan Poe. He and his wife, Carol, own and co-manage the operation with sons Stanley II and Kalen, and their wives.
“First of all, the ventilation is much better compared to housing the flock in older buildings in the past,” Stan says.
Carol agrees. “We used to see condensation, and it was damp,” she notes. “It wasn’t as healthy an environment for the sheep.”
The Poes typically have the hoop barns erected and then finish the ends themselves. They use a combination of sliding doors and overhead doors, depending on the intended use for the structure. In either case, there is typically a mesh opening above the doors that allows for ventilation.
“The barns are constructed so that there’s also an opening that runs down along each side where the hoop comes down to the foundation,” Stan says. “It is a wide enough gap to provide airflow for the building.”
The Poes have found the structures work for housing sheep even in very cold weather. Most of the hoop barns have side panels that are hinged. As summer approaches, they can take out three screws and fold down a panel, letting in more air. In some cases, these panels run the entire length of the barn.
“We can open them up or close them in, as the season of the year and weather dictates,” Stan says. “Proper ventilation is a big deal for animal health.”
Fewer bird problems
The second big advantage of the hoop barns is significantly fewer problems with birds, Stan says. Walk from a hoop barn to one of their few remaining conventional barns on a spring morning, and the difference in chirping birds is noticeable.
“They have fewer places to land [in a hoop barn],” Stan explains. “The only places they can build nests are on the ends that we construct. We take poles every so often and knock out nests so that isn’t a problem.”
A third advantage that makes hoop barns attractive is their flexibility — not just for various uses, but also for various feeding and watering systems for livestock. “We have different feeding systems in different barns,” Stan explains. In some barns, sheep eat along the outside of the wall on a ledge. An automatic feeder brings feed from the bin and drops it for the sheep. We can regulate the amount fed easily.”
In one building, they used the bed of an old hay elevator as a feed trough. “That’s the cheap approach,” Stan quips. “But it works.”
In the newest barn, there is an aisle down the center, and sheep are fed from that aisle on either side. “It’s more expensive because it takes more feeders, but it’s efficient and easy to use,” he says.
Check out the gallery to see photos of the Poes’ hoop barns.