News & Stories

Rules and Tools for Rotational Grazing

“At the heart of rotational grazing is a replication of the way nature has formed an interaction between ruminants and plants – mainly grassland plants,” notes longtime Wisconsin beef farmer and rotational grazier Jim Munsch.

Munsch likens managed grazing of modern day cattle to the movement of their predecessors, the buffalo on the Great Plains or ruminants in Africa. “That structure involved a ruminant eating a plant off in one area and then moving on to another area where the plants were delicious and plentiful, allowing time for the initial plant that was eaten off to regrow.”

The movement and herding behavior was driven primarily by predators. Today electric fences replicate that effect. “We put animals in a herd on a small piece of land, have them eat the plants down so there is still leaf left, and then have them eat another piece, so the original piece can regrow.”

Allowing for regrowth is key to rotational grazing. In the spring in the upper Midwest, where Munsch grazes his beef, regrowth typically happens in about three weeks. In fall, it takes up to five weeks depending on moisture and length of daylight.

“With some grass and legume species, regrowth starts in 24 hours; therefore, it is best to move the cattle out of the eaten area, so they cannot graze on the immediate regrowth,” advises Munsch.

He aims for his animals to eat half of what is available and leave half to generate new growth and keep plants healthy. Manure distribution and hoof action also contribute to pasture health. Stock density for a healthy pasture on Munsch’s farm is approximately a pound of animal per square foot.

Tools for successful grazing

“Everything we do in terms of tools—fencing, water, shade— is to enhance that biological relationship between the plant and the animal,” notes Munsch.

Fencing – Managed grazing starts with a sturdy perimeter fence consisting of four to six strands of high-tensile or barbed wire. Next single-strand electric wire is used to form large paddocks within that area. Within those large paddocks, one to three days of grazing is enclosed with temporary fencing or polywire.

The size of those areas is determined by the number of animals and the amount of dry matter on the paddock. “A ruminant consumes about 2 ½ to 3% of their body weight daily in dry matter of the plants they consume,” explains Munsch. “You can estimate in a moderately thick stand, there are a couple hundred pounds of dry matter per acre of the sward eaten.”

Water – Providing access to water within each paddock differs for beef and dairy. While most dairy graziers rely on the cows drinking sufficient water in the barnyard, with beef, it’s a different story. “If you are a beef grazier, there is a large return on investment from animal gain if you can put water in each paddock,” says Munsch.

“Additionally, if you have water on the paddock, all of the nutrients the animals eat during the day will then be distributed there. So you have a better nutrient balance on the paddock.”

Shade – The Shade Haven mobile shade structure is a valuable tool for managed grazing. Before Shade Haven, graziers kept animals on paddocks that included trees on the hottest days.That put a restraint on our ability to match animals to where the grass was best for them that day,” notes Munsch, who appreciates his ability to move the shade.

“With Shade Haven, on those blistering hot days, I can put shade on the paddock with the best grass for those animals for that day.”

Rotational grazing vs. continuous grazing

“When plants are eaten off in a managed system, they are eaten off when there is as much plant material below the ground as there is above the ground,” explains Munsch.

Roots draw nutrients and moisture from the soil, while above ground photosynthesis takes place. “When those solar panels—the leaves—are eaten off, there is a huge energy store in the root system, so the plant can regrow,” says Munsch.

With continuous grazing, the animals eat the tender regrowth almost immediately. “The plant’s defense mechanism is to reduce the amount of roots it has, because it wants a balance between the ability of the plant to get energy from the sun and the ability of the plant to get nutrients and moisture from the soil.”

Eventually those plants die and all that remains on the pasture are plant species that grow very close to the ground. “From a production standpoint, you dramatically reduce the yield of dry matter when you continually graze, because you are reducing the ability of the plant to grow,” says Munsch. “And it is dramatic. A managed pasture system, where you allow the plant to regrow, can yield twice as much dry matter.”

The increased yield allows twice as many animals to graze on higher quality forage, resulting in more rapid weight gain. “I joke with people that if a seed corn salesman came onto your farm and said, ‘I can teach you to grow twice as much corn as you grow now,’ you would think he was crazy,” says Munsch. “But with pasture management, you can say that.”

 

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.”

Shade Makes Big Impact on Ohio Farm

Drausin Wulsin is in the midst of his first season with a Shade Haven on his farm, Red Stone Farm, in Cynthiana, Ohio. And he already wants another one.

“This is one of the tools that can lead to sustainability on a farm,” says Wulsin. “It gives one the ability to micromanage the land. It is a very effective tool.”

Farming for about 20 years, Wulsin left a career in the financial industry to farm full time. Today 150 bovine units, a couple hundred sheep, some hogs and laying hens graze the fertile lands of Red Stone Farm. Certified organic since 2013, the farm added organic dairy to the mix two years ago.

Wulsin and his wife Susan operate their farm, about 85 miles east of Cincinnati, and a business, Grassroots Farm & Foods, that sells their grass-fed meats and milks to restaurants and people in southern Ohio. They also sell their meats and Susan’s hand-prepared foods on the Grassroots Farm & Foods website.

Wulsin adheres to grass-based, sustainable farm practices, including rotational grazing. “We are constantly moving the animals to fresh pasture and fresh grass,” he says. “We have long rest periods of 30 to 90 days. We move them slowly when the grass is growing slowly.”

He says one of his biggest challenges as a livestock farmer is winter feed. “There are a number of ways to address that. One of which is building organic matter in the soil, so that you grow more feed and have a longer grazing season.”

The Shade Haven is an effective tool for building organic matter. “The beauty of the structure is that it allows you to surgically address issues of shade and issues of infertility,” says Wulsin. “You can place the structure where you want in order to get the greatest impact. It gives me ultimate mobility and flexibility to focus on a small scale on a piece of land. That eventually is going to build organic matter. We move manure away from the trees and into the pastures, that is going to help our pastures and help our organic matter, and ultimately help our bottom line.”

Pleased with the performance of his first Shade Haven, Wulsin anticipates ordering another. “I think it is very well-designed, good looking, mobile and durable. We have had some high winds and it is not affected.”

We’re Moving! Shade Haven Moving Production Facility and Offices

Viroqua, Wis. – July 3, 2017 – Shade Haven, LLC, designer and manufacturer of mobile shade structures for agricultural and commercial applications, is moving its offices and production facility from its current location on Nelson Parkway to the Food Enterprise Center, 1201 North Main Street, Viroqua, Wis.

“The larger production space at the Enterprise Center will better accommodate our manufacturing processes to fit the growing demand for our mobile shade structures,” said Shade Haven CEO Peter Bergquist.

In business since 2012, Shade Haven produces mobile shade structures in sizes up to 40 feet wide that are easily moved anywhere to throw shade where it’s needed, when it’s needed. Adding shade for pastured and rotationally grazed animals reduces the risk of heat stress, increases milk production and fertility, and impacts the even distribution of nutrients that keep a pasture healthy and thriving. Shade Haven structures have become an integral part of grass-based livestock operations throughout the U.S. and the world. The company has also broadened its market to serve the people industry, providing shade for large groups at events such as trade shows and music festivals.

“We’re very excited to help support the growth of this local, successful business. Shade Haven is a great fit with the innovative culture we’ve established here in our center,” noted Susan Noble, executive director of Vernon Economic Development Association, which owns and manages the Food Enterprise Center. “We’re proud to work with these young engineers to keep their business headquartered in our community.”

Shade Haven will begin moving mid-July and expects to be fully operational at its new location by August 1, 2017.

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Shade Haven at WI Farm Tech Days, July 11-13

Viroqua, Wis. – July 3, 2017 – Shade Haven, LLC, designer and manufacturer of mobile shade structures for agricultural and commercial applications, is an exhibitor at the upcoming Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, July 11-13, in Algoma, Wis. 

“We are proud to be among the innovative exhibitors at Farm Tech Days for the third year,” said Shade Haven CEO Peter Bergquist. “It’s a terrific opportunity to connect with livestock producers to introduce how they can integrate our mobile shade structures into their operations.”

 

Shade Haven has added a new model, the SH500, since the 2016 show. This smaller model is ideal for cattle and other livestock. It can easily be transported with a 4-wheeler and provides 500 square feet of shade. 

 

Demand for Shade Haven’s innovative products is growing worldwide. Shade Haven produces mobile shade structures in sizes up to 40 feet wide that are easily moved anywhere to throw shade where it’s needed, when it’s needed. Adding shade for pastured and rotationally grazed animals reduces the risk of heat stress, increases milk production and animal fertility, and contributes to the even distribution of nutrients that keep a pasture healthy and thriving. Shade Haven structures have become an integral part of grass-based livestock operations throughout the U.S. and the world.

 

The three-day Wisconsin Farm Technology Days is the state’s biggest agricultural show and one of the largest in the nation.

Stop by and enjoy the shade at Shade Haven’s outdoor booth #586.

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.”

Mobile shelter makes cool investment for cattle operation

Keeping cattle cool in the summer months can be a challenge. Especially with the record heat and humidity the Mid-Atlantic region has seen this month. For Calvert County farmer Jason Leavitt, a portable shade structure has been a huge help.

“For me, not providing shade isn’t really an option,” said Leavitt, owner of Wilson Dowell Farm in Owings, Md. “They can survive without shade, but in my opinion, this isn’t a survivability contest.”

Leavitt keeps the cattle on pasture year round. When his grandfather was raising cattle, they had access to streams and shade in the wooded areas. Now, as part of best management practices, Leavitt’s 300-acre farm is surrounded by extensive fencing systems. While the fences help to improve water quality and soil erosion, they also limit the cattle’s access to natural shade.

Edward Draper, the Wye Angus program manager at the University of Maryland’s Wye Research and Education Center said that in a grazing system, providing adequate shade and fresh water are key. Without it, the effects are diminished production.

“The more time they spend out on pasture, the better. If they’re in the shade instead of grazing, they’re not eating. This means they’re not producing as much milk which can prevent calves from growing,” Draper said.

Leavitt said he considered planting trees in the pasture, but they are slow to establish. He said he made attempts to create his own shade structures. They were either stationary, which destroyed the grass and concentrated nutrients in one spot, or they were too cumbersome to move. Ultimately, Leavitt found Shade Haven, a company out of Wisconsin that specializes in portable shade units. The initial investment was high, Leavitt said. The structure he bought cost about $18,000. He estimates it will pay for itself in four years, though.

“If I didn’t have it, I couldn’t do what we’re doing now,” Leavitt said.

In a rotational grazing system, Leavitt said he needs 25 to 50-percent more pasture, depending on the forage type, in the summer compared to the spring and fall. The shade structure reduces his need to feed hay because he can fully utilize his pastures. He said he’s saved about $5,000 in hay that he would have had to purchase this summer without the portable shade.

“We’re still feeding some hay, but not nearly as much. I’d rather have them eating live green plants all the time,” Leavitt said.

The structure looks like a helicopter with a round canopy that is just over 38 feet in diameter. It’s covered in 80-percent shade cloth that provides 1,200 square feet of shade at high noon.
Leavitt said the tiny holes in the cloth create convection, which generates airflow.

“It’s tends to be cooler under the shade structure than in natural shade. The cattle actually prefer it,” Leavitt said.

Draper said at the Wye they are fortunate to be able to provide shade with trees. For some producers, though, mobile shade can be effective.

“It would be important to move it every day or so, so that the cattle don’t make a mess in one spot,” Draper said.

Pasture quality is important to Leavitt’s operation. The continuous grazing is made easier with the portable shade structure. He said have multiple forage species is also critical.

“In the spring, grass could come back and be grazable in two weeks. This time of year, it could be a month. That’s why it’s important to not have a monoculture of forage species,” Leavitt explained.

His pastures are a mix of millet and fescue. This year, he also planted five acres of Sudan grass which has thrived in the heat and humidity. Leavitt went through the Maryland Grazer’s Network mentorship program last year and hopes to do more with annuals and seasonal grasses. Overall, Leavitt said he was pleased with his investment. He’s seen real value in improved efficiency, but said the intangible benefits are equally as important to him.

“If it ends up being more expensive or less efficient, I can live with that. I feel that it is the right thing to do,” Leavitt said.

By JAMIE CLARK TIRALLA, AFP Correspondent, Aug 20, 2016. See the story on Americanfarm.com.

 

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