Category: Farm stories

Mobile Shade Builds Pasture Health in Iowa

Eighty happy Jersey cows graze the pastures of Francis Thicke’s 730-acre Radiance Dairy organic farm in Fairfield, Iowa. The cows produce the key ingredient for the bottled milk, yogurt and cheese processed right on the farm and sold to nearby grocery stores and restaurants.

Thicke practices rotational grazing in 60 paddocks. “We have three groups that move around—the milking cows, the dry cows and bred heifers, and the third group is yearlings,” he says.

A Shade Haven mobile shade structure moves with the milking cows. The addition of the Shade Haven gives Thicke more control over which paddocks he uses regardless of the weather. It also allows him to control nutrient distribution.

“I have quite a few paddocks with trees. Before the Shade Haven, I would always give the cows the paddocks with the trees on the hot summer days, and at night I put them on paddocks with no trees,” says Thicke. “Now with the shade I reverse that.”

“I can move the shade to a different place every time,” he adds. “The key thing is that I put them where there are no trees in the daytime and use the shade to manage my nutrients. That’s the reason I bought it.”

Pasture management is something Thicke knows a lot about. Raised on a farm in La Crescent, Minn., he has a Ph.D. in soil science and worked as National Program Leader for Soil Science at the USDA Extension Service in Washington D.C. “Then 25 years ago I came back to farming here in Iowa,” he explains.

Thicke runs Radiance Dairy with his wife Susan. He has been a long-time advocate of organic farming practices since the 1970s when he and his brothers converted the family’s dairy farm to organic. He serves on the National Organic Standards Board and is active in numerous organic organizations.

Thicke’s focus on soil health extends to the cover crops that he uses for field crops and for grazing. The cover crops control weeds and build the soil.

Building a healthy pasture is made easier thanks to the Shade Haven. Thicke appreciates the ease of collapsing the shade and redeploying it. “Although most of the time I move it from paddock to paddock without folding it up,” he says. “It is easy to hook up and pull the Shade Haven through paddock gates and down lanes with an ATV, without folding it up.”

As a mobile shade structure owner for less than one year, Thicke is among the many rotational graziers throughout the U.S. discovering the benefits of portable shade in their grazing systems. We at Shade Haven look forward to learning about additional impacts of shade at Radiance Dairy.

See photos and more information at Radiance Dairy’s Facebook page.

A Perfect Fit

 

Hidden Creek Farm in Delaplane, Virginia, is gaining a reputation as the place with the Shade Haven. Farm owner Andrea Young welcomes that connection. “For us, the Shade Haven is more than an investment, it aligns with our vision of innovation, quality products and quality of life for our animals.  It’s cool, its innovative and it provides real value.”

Passersby might catch the Youngs’ Red Poll cattle enjoying the Shade Haven mobile shade structure. You might even see their Katahdin sheep, chickens or a combination of animals hanging out there.

The mix of animals at Hidden Creek Farm is part of the vision the Youngs had for their farm when they purchased it in 2015. Since the farm was in a conservation area, Young says, “We wanted to create a place that respected the attitude of conservation and reverence for what the land could do with us, and what we could learn from the land.”

“With our commitment to conservation, we wanted to focus on at least one or two heritage breeds. So we talked to the livestock conservancy, did research and decided to get Red Poll cattle, which are a threatened breed.”

This fall the Youngs are breeding some of their heifers for the first time and will breed the rest in the spring. They plan to sell breeding stock to others interested in the preservation of Red Poll cattle and will eventually sell the meat, which is known to be flavorful and tender. Additionally, the farm markets its pigs, sheep, chickens, herbs, mushrooms, fruit and honey.

Andrea and her husband Dendy have dedicated their professional lives to helping startups and encouraging entrepreneurship. Young says that working with an innovative young company such as Shade Haven LLC fits perfectly with their philosophy of both farming and life in general.

Practicing rotational grazing, Young has observed an improvement in pasture health with the Shade Haven. “We move the Shade Haven every five days, and we have noticed amazing fertility, health and vigor. There are round patches in the pasture where ever we put the Shade Haven. The grass that comes up there is so lush and vibrant. It’s phenomenal.”

Animal health and comfort is important to Young, and she is pleased to find her cows under the Shade Haven instead of out in the hot sun. “I can tell you that the cows prefer the Shade Haven, that is just a fact. Even on a cool day, they will go under and just hang there. It’s like a gathering place.”

“When I know my cattle and my sheep are protected and more comfortable, that comes back to us both in peace and in terms of dollars,” adds Young. “For us, the Shade Haven was very much on top of the priority list. It is essential.”

Young is excited about the future as they move ahead with their plans for Hidden Creek Farm. Those plans include the livestock as well as agritourism and education. The goal is to offer others a chance to spend time on the farm and enable beginning farmers to learn through a young farmer internship program.

“Starting Hidden Creek Farm has been an amazing experience,” says Young. “Nobody is ever bored, and we are all learning a lot. It is where we want to be and how we want to live for the rest of our lives.”

Check out Hidden Creek Farm’s website to find out more about this happy customer.

Tennessee Farm Creates Cool, Clean Environment with Shade

If you look out across the 480 acres that make up Powell Farms in Limestone, Tennessee, you’ll likely spot at least one of the farm’s nine Shade Haven mobile shade structures, probably at the highest point in the pasture.

“Anytime you have cattle, you need shade and you need fresh air,” notes farm owner Jim Powell. “The advantage of the Shade Haven is you can put the shade on the top of a knoll where most of the air flows. Even when it is not very windy, you still get fresh air moving across, and if you move the shades daily, you are on fresh ground and fresh lie down area every day.”

The Shade Haven mobile shade structures on Powell Farms provide comfort for the farm’s 500+ Angus calves, yearlings and mature cows. Powell especially appreciates the fresh ground for the young stock.  “Because the calves need a cleaner environment than a mature cow does,” he says.

About 200 calves are born each year on Powell Farms, most of them through embryonic transfer. “We do mostly IVF to produce our embryos,” explains Powell, who says the farm only raises heifers. “We sort the semen before it is put in the dish in the IVF process, which gives us about 93% females.”

A graduate of the University of Tennessee agriculture school in the 1950s, Powell has worked off and on in the ag industry over the last 60+ years. He has worked closely with the university on a number of projects, including a new genomics center set to launch in 2018.

Earlier this year, Powell donated two Shade Haven structures to his alma mater, after university representatives were impressed with the shades they saw on a visit to Powell Farms.

“They are using them for a heifer program,” adds Powell. “They feel the same way; the cross flow of air is a huge advantage.”

Sharing his time between the farm and his business, Powell Construction, Powell appreciates the ease with which the shade units can be moved and redeployed. “It takes 15 or 20 minutes, but it is a one-person job and I think that is an advantage.”

Powell notes the slip tongue feature on the dolly tongue makes it easy for one person to hook up and move the unit. “The Shade Haven is very simple to use,” he adds. “They are easy to move, and they withstand wind. We have never had any damage to a single one because of wind.”

Practicing rotational grazing and feeding primarily forage-based product, Powell Farms adheres to the highest standards in its Angus program. Shade Haven is proud to part of that program. Discover more about Powell Farm’s superior Angus cattle at powellfarms.net.

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