Novel shade ideas from across the globe

As more farms transition to rotational grazing systems, providing shade for livestock during hot weather can be tricky due to a lack of trees or hedges. 

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Homemade shade structures

Research indicates that a well-designed portable shade structure can reduce total heat load by 30 to 50%. Portable, low-cost shade structures can be rotated with the animals around the farm.

This example to the right, from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, is built from 2.5 in pipe and welded into a frame, using shade cloth. 

Top tips for constructing your own shelter:

  • Use a shade cloth that reduces light by 80%
  • Shade cloth is commonly available in black, though lighter colours reflect more heat
  • You can also use solid roofing, such as corrugated metal – painted white on the topside to reduce heat radiation

Farmers in Kentucky have experimented using unwanted trailer frames and metal or wooden structures:

Natural shade

It will come as no surprise that livestock tend to prefer shade from trees, so one option is to rotate stock through naturally shaded pastures during periods of hot weather, although this is not always practical. 

If you are considering planting trees and hedges on your farm, some ways to do this to create shade are:

  • Shade belts – these are usually a single line of deciduous trees, planted in an east-west direction to give shade on the south side
  • Trees with large canopies planted individually in fields
  • Shelterbelts – thick hedges of trees usually fenced off from stock 

‘Living barns’ or ‘Silvopasture shelter belts’ are another option. The taller trees naturally reduce exposure to the sun, rain and wind, and the lower trees and shrubs offer a source of nutrition.

The shrubs and smaller trees have varied nutritional benefits for the livestock, giving them access to minerals, protein and condensed tannins.

For more information, see How to design shelter belts, also known as living barns and Silvopasture for livestock, biodiversity and soil health from Innovative Farmers. 

Funding is available for some projects from The Woodland Trust.

Source: Kentucky University College of Agriculture