Of all the posts I've done, the one that gets the most hits daily is the cattle panel greenhouse I built. The next most popular post is about the cattle panel barn. The other day I was on a forum and there was a discussion in progress about my cattle panel greenhouse and the question being debated was how much snow load could it stand. Its a excellent question.
Over the years of homesteading I've built a number of structures with cattle panels. They are easy up and easy down, wallet friendly and they serve the purpose of sheltering whatever it is your needing sheltered. I've used them open ended for hay and for summer animal shelter. I've used them for year round shelters with the ends closed up to house goats, pigs and chickens. I've built the greenhouse which is meant to be a permanent structure. I love them and can't say enough good about cattle panel structures. For animals worm loads in the ground around barns is a given but you can move these barns. Maybe not yearly but every few years you can relocate them to fresh ground and leave the ground around where it was previously located. In a few years you can again use that land to relocate your animals to after mother nature has had time to get the parasite load back down. And with goats these parasites can literally be a killer.
Still cattle panel structures have their share of problems. Snow load being the biggest one unless you build it with that in mind. You can see in the picture above what the weight of this little buckling is
doing to this shelter. Just the slightest build up of wet snow would do it in. This one is very weak because it wasn't built like so many are with t-posts on the sides. I used 4 x 4's for the base and attached the cattle panels on the bottom to it. This makes for a very weak structure because it's only stable at the very bottom.
This one here was my first one. It was built with t-posts on the outside and I later added the ties to the front to hold in the bedding since we use deep bedding in winter. It also had a cattle panel across the back which added more stability. Even so one winter it started to collapse. I normally go out every hour or so all night and day in a snow storm to brush them off. This time it was either wetter snow or I let it go a little longer. It was 1/2 way down with about 6" of snow. Maybe 4". It wasn't tons to be sure. The one the buckling is on above wouldn't have even been able to bear that.
We got through it with a few 2 x 4's. One along the roof and the others vertically to hold it up. I worried of course the goats would hit them and knock them down but they didn't and we made it through the storm.
In these two pictures of the greenhouse you can see on the left it's leaning without even a tarp on it because it's only attached at the wood base. I needed to add a board to hold it upright until I could add a crossboard. And if they bend as the one in the brown covered one did it's going to be tough to fix. These obviously aren't going to hold much snow.
On the other hand, once I added this support to the greenhouse I've gone through many storms, a few that really dropped a lot without having to do anything at all. Of course this is Virginia. If I were in Minnesota I would probably add 2 more boards going the length of it were the 3 cross boards are now. And as it stands now the 3 boards going across the width of it hit the panels so its solid. I don't worry about having to stay up all night to go shake or sweep this off.
When I first started with cattle panel structures I thought I wouldn't mind when we got the occasional storm having to be up all night doing that but trust me....it gets old fast. Still, if your in a pinch you can get by without support structure but only if you keep brushing it off. All night long. Sigh.
I know some of you out there are using these. Please if you have a better way share it with us. I would love to have someone do a guest post on their way. Or just add it to comments. I promise, it will get seen here. This subject generates 1/2 the hits to this site. We only get better by sharing.
Next I want to talk about weatherizing them for the animals so if you are already doing this share that too.
Posts on building with cattle panels:
Building a Cattle Panel Barn
Building a Permanent Greenhouse with Cattle Panels