Category: Farm practices

Bring on the Shade for Stress-Free Cows

It’s summer. For humans that means time outdoors, vacations and lower stress. For dairy cows, it’s another story. When temperatures rise above 72 degrees, dairy cows are susceptible to heat stress, especially with full sun and high humidity. As we enter the hottest months of summer, water and shade are critical to reducing heat stress and keeping cows healthy and productive.

Heat stress raises a cow’s body temperature, which leads to less dry matter intake, resulting in weight loss and decreased milk production. The more productive the cow, the higher the risk of heat stress. A study by the University of Florida states, “Heat stress has been shown to reduce milk production by 25% by reducing feed intake and increasing health problems such as mastitis, lameness and reproductive delay.”

Less milk in the tank means less money in your pocket. Calculating just a 15% reduction with a 50-cow herd that averages 2,500 pounds of milk daily, equals a potential daily loss of 375 pounds of milk. Multiply that by 100 days – the average days in a year over 80 degrees – and you take a significant economic hit.

Provide the shade

Providing shade with Shade Haven mobile structures is an economical solution to reduce heat stress and boost productivity. Multiple studies confirm that providing shade for lactating cows increases their dry matter intake, leading to increased milk production.

“In Florida studies, shade alone improved milk productivity by 10% in two consecutive years,” notes another University of Florida IFAS Extension study, titled Feeding and Managing Cows in Warm Weather.

The same study states, “The maintenance needs for a 1,400-lb. cow producing 60 lbs. of milk is about 20% higher when the temperature is 95 degrees F as compared to 68 degrees F. This being true, it is easy to understand the impact of heat stress on high-producing cows in early lactation when energy intake is critical to her performance.”

The University of Wisconsin -Extension estimates Wisconsin dairies lose as much as $200 per cow annually because of heat stress. Dry cows and even calves can benefit from shade, too, with better weight gain, improved immune function and better production once they join the milking herd.

Shade Haven mobile shade structures are available in sizes up to 40 feet wide. They can be easily moved to provide shade where you need it, when you need it, for a stress-free summer for your cows.

Casting Shade on Nutrient Management


For beef and dairy farms, crop fertility is ranked as a leading expense, second to the cost of the land. Rotational grazing practices address the pasture fertility issue, moving animals from paddock to paddock every three days. Through this practice, the animals return nutrients to the pasture by grazing, drinking water and depositing the nutrients back on the paddock. A blazing hot sun presents challenges to rotational grazing practices.

“The issue then is not the addition of nutrients, it’s the distribution of nutrients,” explains Wisconsin beef farmer and managed grazer Jim Munsch. “There are university studies that say without shade, most of the nutrients tend to gravitate toward the water source in the paddock. On a hot day, if you have no shade, the animals will either stand on the highest part of the paddock to get the breeze, or they will stand around the water point.”

If there are trees in a pasture, animals will congregate there and deposit minerals primarily in that area. Munsch adds that “true converts to rotational grazing” considered trees as weeds, for that very reason. On a hot day, animals migrate toward them, resulting in unequal distribution of nutrients in the paddock. The solution, eliminate the trees.

Yet, without shade, the animals suffer, and any farmer raising livestock is concerned about animal comfort. Dairy cows are especially susceptible to heat stress, which impacts production and ultimately the bottom line.

Enter Shade Haven

“This in my view is a movable tree,” says Munsch. “Wherever you need nutrients, wherever nutrients have negative migration…a way to get nutrients back into that place is to bring shade there on a sunny day. Shade Haven allows you to move nutrients where you want them. For instance, in my paddock I move cows every day. Here in Wisconsin you can occupy a paddock five or six times during the year. So you have five or six opportunities to move nutrients where you want them.”

The standard time animals stay in a paddock is three days. If all three of those days are sunny, Munsch moves the Shade Haven structure within the paddock daily. “It’s like parking your manure spreader in a place. So if you have a high concentration of animals under there for a good part of the day, you are going to want to move it.”

It’s also wise to move the structure after heavy rains that have saturated the soil. “If the ground is soft, after a couple inches of rain, they are going to beat that little piece of land up pretty bad.”

The nitrogen dilemma

Nitrogen is a typical add to soil by many conventional farmers. Purchasing nitrogen can be expensive. Munsch argues that nitrogen can be added to the soil by encouraging legumes to grow in your pasture. Legumes fix nitrogen from the air. “In fact there is a net positive on nitrogen simply by encouraging legumes to grow on your pasture,” Munsch says. “The economic trade off is legumes for nitrogen, so you don’t have to buy nitrogen, and animals take care of the distribution of nutrients within a paddock for phosphorus and potash and trace minerals, needed to maintain the health of the legumes.”

“On our farm, we have not applied purchased fertilizer to our grazing land in 25 years,” adds Munsch. “This is a product of managing animal distribution and selective out-wintering.”

With dairy cows, who are very susceptible to heat stress, Shade Haven is effective with the distribution of nutrients that keep the pasture healthy and fertile. “The thing that keeps them [dairy cows] in the barn is the shade,” notes Munsch. “By facilitating the animals to spend time in the paddock by providing shade you are moving nutrients out of the barn, out of the lanes, and onto the paddocks.”

Keep Your Cows Cool, Build Better Pasture, and Test New Grass Seeds All Under the Shade Haven.

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Hello, I am Lars Bergan, one of the owners here at Shade Haven and the recent buyer of my very own unit.

Like many of you, I did not jump up immediately and buy. I had to think about it. With only 12 beef cows, I didn’t think my farm was big enough, and I wasn’t sure I could justify it, should I buy a new manure spreader instead? But last winter I made the decision to buy. I have owned it for one season now and I can assure you firsthand that the SH1200 is a wonderful product.

Though it is wonderfully easy to move, I will confess that I did not move the Shade every day.  The longest I had the cows underneath it on one spot was three days, and if those days were hot ones, there was definitely perfectly round impression made on the landscape.

Turns out, these spots were a perfect place to start any sort of new grasses, kale, or legumes I wanted to add to the pasture. With the bare ground and manure, after one rain you have excellent germination.

The Shade works perfect. Really. More than just about any tool you’ll buy. It keeps my cows perfectly comfortable and gaining, no matter how long the hot, sunny day. Most days, I hook onto it with the tractor, and pull it into the next paddock fully open.

The other thing that helped convince me to but buy the SH1200 was the Wintertime Discount.  Selling shade in the dead of winter isn’t easy, so the team agreed to give me a $1000 discount if I bought one in December or January. If the price has been holding you back, give us a call and get a deal.  You won’t regret it.

Lars Bergan and Family

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If portable shade for livestock is such a great idea, why don’t we see portable shade in every pasture?

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Question:

“If portable shade for livestock is such a great idea, why don’t we see portable shade in every pasture?”

Answer:
“Because up until the invention of the Shade Haven in 2013, a portable livestock shade did not exist.”

And that is a fact.

If in 2012 you Googled portable livestock shade, you would have found exactly nothing. That is, if you wanted a portable shade that was actually portable, and big enough to provide protection for at least a modest sized herd, and didn’t self destruct the first time the wind decided to blow.

You found nothing because nothing existed.

What you did find was a lot of concerned discussion on the effects of too much sun and too much heat on livestock performance, especially on rotational grazing farms and ranches. And you found lots of ideas about planting trees and building buildings with misters and fans, and lots of discussion of breeding animals to tolerate more sun and more heat. And you found lots of sketchy plans for homemade shades and a few things that were kind of portable–if you owned a bulldozer.

If you sat back and looked, you realized there were a lot of arrows all pointing in the same direction: The world needs a good portable shade.

And then the sun came out!

And the Shade Haven was conceived, designed, built, tested and perfected by an old farmer and two young engineers. Using state-of-the-art computer design and drafting tools, Guthrie and Peter took a 3500 year old concept and created a thing of grace and beauty for 21st century livestock grazing.
The Shade Haven is it friends, and it is here to stay.

It solves a problem as old as Moses wandering in the desert and as contemporary as your animals being punished by the heat and looking desperately to hide from the blazing sun.

Question:
Why didn’t people carry smart phones 10 years ago?

Answer:
Because they did not exist.
How about poly-wire electric fencing?
4-wheelers?
Zero-turn lawn mowers?
Bale wrappers?
Skid-steer loaders?

Good ideas happen and the world changes for the better.
The Shade Haven, portable livestock shade that really works, is one of those ideas whose time has come.

Author: Vince Hundt, St.Brigid Meadows, WI.