Category: Farm stories

Grass-Fed Galloways Love Shade at Weil Family Farm

Geoffrey Weil and Galloway calf, Weil Family Farm, Greensboro, NC

When Geoffrey and Tess Weil first encountered their 111-acre farm in Greensboro, North Carolina, they saw lush green rolling hills and a property they could restore to a working farm. They also envisioned an opportunity to raise cattle on grass without growth hormones or antibiotics.

The Weil Family Farm raises a hardy breed of Galloway cattle. The couple discovered the breed while on vacation in the Scottish Highlands. “When we came back, we did some research and discovered that not only are the Galloways a heritage breed, they are also on the conservancy watch list as a threatened breed,” notes Geoffrey Weil. “So, we’re also helping a threatened species establish its numbers.”

Thirty-two Galloway cattle, both black and white, graze the farm’s four 15-acre paddocks. Committed to sustainability and rotational grazing, the Weils use a Shade Haven mobile shade structure to get maximum impact from their pasture. “There are trees on the east side of the pasture, and no trees toward the west,” Weil explains. “In the morning the cows, luxuriate in the shadows created by the trees on the eastern part, and then in the afternoon they gravitate to the Shade Haven on the western part of the pasture.”

To prevent distress of land under the Shade Haven, Weil moves it sometimes two or three times daily. “It is very easy to re-deploy. In fact, the cows like it so much that when we move it to another area, they follow it as if it were a bucket of feed.”

The ease of moving the Shade Haven allows Weil to control the distribution of nutrients throughout the pasture. “I would recommend the Shade Haven to anyone interested in rotational grazing,” notes Weil. “At the same time, I’d recommend the Shade Haven to anyone who is trying to spread manure around the pasture and control where the cattle are eating.”

Weil disagrees with feeding grain to fatten cattle and hasten their time to market. “Integral to our vision of raising cows is that cows are not supposed to eat grain. We raise our cows on pastures of clover, fescue, and ryegrass.”

Galloway beef has won awards for its superior flavor. Ultimately the Weil Family Farm will sell its high-quality, grass-fed Galloway beef to individuals and local restaurants. “Since our cows can only eat grass and supplements that conform to AGBA standards, our cattle will take an extra year to get to market,” says Weil. “But it will be worth the wait.”

While grass is a must on Weil Family Farm, so is the Shade Haven.

“It’s funny the way our cows tend to gravitate toward the Shade Haven,” says Weil. “We leave it out all the time – unless we are expecting severe storms. Even when it’s cloudy, you find our cattle under the Shade Haven. It’s a comfort zone for them.”

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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Is the wind going to blow it over?

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The first question people ask about the Shade Haven is, “What happens when the wind blows?”

No wonder. The Shade Haven looks like something intended to fly or spin or send messages into deep space. But no, it was designed to be a portable shade for livestock and designed using 21st century technology. That means we did not just take a random stab at this and hope for the best. It is designed to handle wind. Here is a true story.

Bob Winkel was born on his farm near Waupun, Wisconsin 56 years ago. He and his wife Jeanette have been dairy farming together since 1982 when he took over from his Dad, and eventually son Caleb became part of the team. They started grazing in 2000 when they transitioned to organic. Like all good dairy farmers Bob and Jeanette struggled with keeping cows cool and comfortable while trying to rotationally graze their 80 cow herd. Although they have some trees and a dairy barn to return to on the hottest days, the ideal situation is to keep the cows on the grass all day, all summer.

In 2015 Bob, Jeanette and Caleb decided to purchase a SH12 Shade Haven to try and solve that problem. “It looked like such a well-made thing I was willing to try it.” In the last week in May they opened it up and put it to work and the cows quickly found out where to find shade and a cool breeze. So far so good.

Only three weeks later Bob had to make a morning trip to Fond Du Lac to do some business. While he was gone, a big, black, summer thunderstorm rolled over his farm and he hurried home  with serious concerns.

Sure enough, he was greeted by limbs all over the road, trees blown down, and a neighbor’s 5 year old heifer shed blown over.

“I was just sure my new Shade Haven, that I had just gotten to really like, would be wrapped around a tree somewhere.”

And?

“But there it was, standing exactly where I left it, wide open and looking like brand new! I was totally amazed…it was like a miracle.”

Bob went on to say a few more interesting things about his first year Shade Haven experience.

“When I bought it I thought the price was a little steep but I realize now you definitely get your moneys worth. It is really well built and well thought out and worth every penny.”

“And I guess I didn’t really expect it but we used it just about everyday all summer long. Now that I have used one I would NOT want to farm without it ever again. We move it every day into the next paddock and the cows have come to expect it.”

“It just makes grazing management so much easier. I used to try to graze off fence lines with trees when it was hot and try to plan way ahead. It would just drive you a little crazy. Now we have all this flexibility and I can graze wherever I want, when I want. Makes more milk and makes life a lot easier.”

The cows love it, the farmer loves it, and the wind does not have it’s way.

The SH12 Shade Haven is a brilliant new tool for rotational grazers and a lovely new feature on the landscape.

Author: Vince Hundt

Photo: From left: Bob Winkel, wife Jeannette, Caleb, wife Sheila, and sons Sully and Winslow