News & Stories

Are You Ready to Graze?

Sarah Flack

Pasture management tips for successful grazing

Farms that practice smart pasture management spend less on feed and realize greater production from their herd. We caught up with dairy pasture management expert Sarah Flack for some tips on getting the most out of your pasture.

Spring is finally here, time to get grazing. But when do you turn the cows out on pasture? “From the plant’s perspective it is best if the animals don’t graze the plants too short, too early,” notes Flack. “But from the animal’s perspective, you’ve got to turn them out to pasture early enough so that you can set the different stages of regrowth, so the pasture quality can be managed consistently through the rapid spring growth state.”

Flack recommends using a multi-faceted approach for determining if pasture plants are graze ready. “I don’t think pre-grazing height by itself is sufficient,” she says. “It depends on the plant species in the pasture and the farmer’s goals. Because we are dealing with cool-season perennial grasses which lignify and grow really tall at certain times of the year and become less digestible, while at other times of the year become very digestible.”

Graziers should be strategic about where they kick off the grazing season. “If you choose an area on your farm where say your orchard grass has gotten really tall and rank in the last couple of years, your plant density has gotten sort of low – and you choose that to be where you graze the cows or sheep first thing in the spring, you can actually stimulate tillering to increase plant density and stimulate the spreading of the white clover.”

Increasing the quality and density of forages in your pasture helps cows maximize dry matter intake, which positively impacts milk production. “You are increasing the amount of dry matter they can easily get per bite, and you are improving the digestibility of each bite,” explains Flack. “So, they don’t have to chew it as much, they don’t have to work as much to digest it, and they can actually physically eat more of it, because of the high digestibility.”

While each pasture is unique, Flack focuses on three things when evaluating a grazing system: amount of time animals are on the paddock, how short plants are grazed, and length of the regrowth / recovery period.

Time on and time away from each paddock are fundamental to good grazing management. Flack advises using variable recovery periods rather than fixed recovery periods. “Variable means the farmer has to be out there on a regular basis observing how fast the plants are growing in the pasture,” says Flack. “And they are changing the speed of the rotation based on how fast those plants are growing.”

“The slower the plants grow, the longer the recovery period gets to be,” she adds. “So you are always making sure the plants in the paddock are sufficiently regrown and recovered so they are ready to be grazed again.”

Beat the heat stress
Since cow comfort and production go hand in hand, good pasture management includes looking out for animal welfare. Flack recommends farmers consult a heat stress chart for their class of animals to know the heat and humidity at which their animals can experience heat stress. Farmers should also know the signs of heat stress and monitor animals for those early signs.

“Good grazing management by itself will actually help prevent heat stress at the lower temperatures,” adds Flack.

A well-managed pasture is filled with lush green pasture plants. “Right up to their eyeballs if it is the correct pre-grazing height,” notes Flack. “The temperature is going to be lower at the soil surface because of the tall shading plant material and that is where the cows muzzle is going to be. They are getting a lot of extra oxygen from those plants photosynthesizing. There is this really beneficial effect of the pasture canopy keeping things cool.”

Make sure there is plenty of water available and have a shade strategy. Shade needs are unique to a farm’s location, climate and landscape. A pasture with trees widely spaced with plenty of undergrowth for grazing is one ideal situation, notes Flack. Since not all farms have natural growing shade, fixed or mobile shade structures are an alternative.

“The problem with fixed non-portable shade is that you get a trampling effect underneath, and it is being focused in the same place all the time,” says Flack.  “I’m more inclined to use a portable shade or move cows back to a barnyard, where you can manage the manure, the feed waste and the trampling impact.”

“Portable shade – if it is not going to blow away – is ideal, because the farmer can actually use the trampling impact under the shade strategically,” adds Flack. “You could do a trample seeding, intentionally trample a problematic weed area…You spread seed, then you put the animals in, they trample the seed in, then you pull them out for a couple months, and you get fantastic germination and establishment of new perennial pasture plants—if the soil moisture conditions and temperatures are right.”

Your mobile shade solution

Shade Haven mobile shade structures can sustain winds up to 40 mph and are easily collapsed in case inclement weather. A Shade Haven can be transported with a truck, tractor or ATV. Three models provide up to 1200 square feet of shade to maximize animal comfort and productivity. Get more out of your pasture with portable shade.

Contact us today for more information or to arrange a demo.

 

Sarah Flack is an author and consultant specializing in pasture management for grass-based livestock farmers. Her books, workshops and videos empower farmers to create grazing and pasture management systems that work successfully for their unique situations. More information on upcoming workshops, books, videos and consulting services at sarahflackconsulting.com.

Upcoming Events
May 2-3 – Grazing Workshops in Chenango and Steuben County, NY
June 4-5 – Grazing Workshop at Green Mountain College, Poultney, VT
Aug. 9 – Grazing Workshop at Sweet Rowan Farm, VT
Aug. 16 – Full Day Grazing School, Stone Barns Center, Pocantico Hills, NY

Shade Haven: Your Instant Savanna

 

A grass-based farmer is an ecologist. He is concerned with the whole world he is creating, the interplay of plants and animals, microorganisms and weather. He strives for a system that is balanced on its own, without any need for purchased inputs, able to tolerate extremes of rain and drought.

The ultimate grass farm is the savanna. The savanna is grass and trees together, sustained by and helping to sustain herds of herbivores who in turn support a network of large predators. Grass feeds the large animals, who then fertilize and revive the plains that they traverse. The savanna is a highly productive grassland ecosystem that permits the coexistence of the largest number and variety of species. Yet, through human error or ecological catastrophe, savanna can become desert.

In her book “Cows Save the Planet,” author Judith Schwartz writes, “…attend to the needs of the soil, and the ecological cycles will begin to get back in sync.”

The book, which Schwartz deems a “call to action on behalf of the soil,” sheds hope on what seems to be a dire environmental predicament. That hope is in the form of managed grazing “as a tool for preventing or reversing the desertification process.”

Judith D. Schwartz

In the chapter “The Making And Unmaking Of Deserts – The Grazing Paradox” Schwartz reports that worldwide roughly 30 million acres of “productive land are lost to desertification” annually.

“Today 1.5 billion people depend for their food and livelihoods on land that is losing its capacity to sustain vegetation,” she writes. The cause is largely man-made and “driven by actions that disturb the lifecycles of many plants and animal species…poor irrigation design, poor livestock management and the use of technology ill-suited to the landscape.”

By cutting down trees, over-grazing, or improperly tilling the soil, humans can cause topsoil built over thousands of years to disappear in a generation.  A grass farmer keeps his land and animals thriving by keeping the land covered with mother earth’s loving blanket of living, heavy sod. His main tool in doing this is moving his cattle, moving throughout the seasons, like the prehistoric herds.

Desertification, climate change and biodiversity share similar outcomes and must all be part of the discussion when considering the fate of the soil and its ability to sustain life. Schwartz points out that desertification is not just a problem in Africa and the southern hemisphere. She notes that North America is the continent with the “highest portion of its dryland areas classified as severe or moderately desertified.”

Schwartz praises Allen Savory’s Holistic Management approach of using livestock to restore the land. She writes, “So if domestic herbivores can be managed such that their behavior mimics that of their wild counterparts, the grasslands – the African savanna or the U.S. prairies and plains, terrain that represents about 45 percent of all the land worldwide – will regain the state of wild land: healthy, diverse, and resilient.”

The mobile shade solution

Shade Haven mobile shade structures can help farmers mimic that behavior to create their own savanna, providing shade wherever the impact of cattle is most needed –keeping the cattle moving and improving soil health, while also improving profitability and animal comfort.

“You are kind of creating microclimates, which makes a lot of sense,” says Schwartz, who notes that her primary focus of research was soil. And while every system and ecological place is unique, farmers “figure out what works with what they have.”

“Nature has figured out what the soil needs and what the plants need. Let’s learn from that,” adds Schwartz. “Part of that system of moving nutrients around are the animals.”

While there are different ways to graze cattle, one fact remains consistent. “In the areas of the world where there are grasslands with deep rich soil, those soils have been created by animals,” notes Schwartz. “We can’t expect to have those rich soils without a system that includes grazing animals.”

Read it!
For more information on Judith Schwartz or to purchase “Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth” visit her website. Also check out Schwartz’s newest book “Water in Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World,” which includes stories of innovators who thrive by working with the water cycle.

Contact us today to add mobile shade to your grazing system.

Shade Haven Customer In the News: Keith Tuck

Keith Tuck.(Progressive Farmer image by Becky Mills)

Savings Bump: Boot the Hay Habit

As appeared in DTN Progressive Farmer 
3/26/2018 | 8:57 AM CDTReprinted with permission, copyright 2018, Progressive Farmer/Telvent DTN, LLC
By Becky Mills, Contributing Editor

If you want proof Keith Tuck’s rotational-grazing system works, take a look at his hay equipment. Oh, wait. It’s gone. He sold it in 2016.

“It was a hard decision to make,” the Moneta, Virginia, cattleman admits. “My hay equipment sat there for two years before I took the plunge. But, it is a whole lot easier and less stressful.”

Tuck’s 75 to 80 cows and 30 replacement and first-calf heifers still need hay, even with his rotational-grazing system. But, he gets by with around 60 days of feeding hay compared to the 120 days he averaged before putting a rotational system into use on the family farm.

Savings Add Up

Prior to 2014, Tuck hayed 120 acres every spring. If he had excess forage, he did it again in the fall. He found that putting up, and feeding less, hay translated into major savings—with costs going from $21,000 to $24,000 before the switch to $9,600 to $12,000 after.

Now, all 250 acres of his fescue-clover pastures are grazed rather than part of it being set aside for making hay. He spends approximately $14,000 less on fertilizer for pasture- and hay land, and not just because he quit making hay.

“Rotational grazing works great to build up the soil,” Tuck says. “I read about a study that says it takes 27 years to cover your pastures with manure with conventional grazing. It only takes three to four years to get manure on every square foot of pasture with rotational grazing.”

He still soil-tests every two years but now sets the fertilizer spreader down to the lowest level possible, putting out 50 units of nitrogen an acre. He says this is enough to give fescue a boost and create stockpiled forage (standing hay) for late fall and winter. Potassium and phosphorus needs are maintained naturally with the cow herd and the hay they buy and feed.

Professional Planning

Tuck had been eyeing a rotational-grazing system for years. Lack of a handy water source kept him from trying it.

“The pond was my only water source, and it was 2,000 feet away from part of the pasture.”

He sat down with his county’s Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) and Peaks of Otter Soil and Water Conservation District employees. They mapped out a system for him, and NRCS provided 75% cost-share money through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and Environmental Quality Incentive Program. Contractors moved in around Labor Day 2010, installed fences and water systems, fenced out his pond and creek, and planted trees in the riparian areas. The work was finished by Thanksgiving.

The total cost was $100,000, with Tuck providing $25,000. “It was easily paid back with the savings in hay,” he notes.

Tuck says fencing cattle out of the creek and pond was a major component of the new system.

“All this water runs into Smith Mountain Lake when it leaves this farm. It is in the lake in a half a mile,” he says. The 32-square-mile lake is a major tourist draw for the area and has sparked quite a bit of development.

Today, Tuck’s 70-acre pastures are divided into permanent paddocks of 15 to 20 acres each. He further divides these with temporary electric fences. Each of his eight water troughs are in a corner so they can be central to four paddocks.

Tuck deploys one of two Shade Havens purchased in 2017

Recovery Builds Roots

In the summer, Tuck rotates cattle from paddock to paddock, usually after a week.

“We never graze below 3 to 4 inches; we don’t want to stress the root systems,” he explains. Each paddock gets six to eight weeks of rest before he allows cattle to graze it again. “I like for it to be 18 inches tall when they come back around, enough for them to graze for a few days.”

John Andrae, Clemson University forage agronomist, says Tuck has the right idea. “Rest periods allow plants to produce new leaves, which collect energy, transform it into sugars and store these sugars so more leaves can be produced following the next grazing cycle. Not only is regrowth potential improved, but root depth and stand life are improved, as well.”

For winter grazing, Tuck goes to a stockpile system. He starts in August by taking the paddocks he wants to stockpile out of the rotation and applying nitrogen. With adequate rain, he generally has enough of a stockpile to graze by November.

He relies on strip grazing to get the most out of that stockpiled fescue. “I start at the water source and give them enough forage for three or four days, seven days at the most.”

When Tuck takes down the temporary fence and moves it, he doesn’t put up a back-fence but leaves it open so they can go back to the water trough. “There is no regrowth then, so it doesn’t hurt it,” he explains.

He keeps a rope hooked to his Kubota tractor and makes quick work of hitching it to the mineral feeder to pull it to fresh forage. “In 30 minutes, I can give them enough grazing to last for a week. It takes two hours to feed hay every day, plus you’re burning fuel. It is a whole lot more efficient and less expensive to stockpile hay.”

A meticulous recordkeeper, Tuck figured out how much time he spends a year now moving cattle and fence. He calculates he is making close to $50 an hour under the current system.

When he does feed hay, he tries to position it where pastures need the most help.

“I try to take mental notes during the growing season of where we need nutrients and seed,” he says. He also makes a point to unroll the hay, as this helps spread the nutrients and allows all the cows to get an equal chance to eat.

While labor and hay savings are impressive, Tuck emphasizes stockpiling isn’t a last-minute decision. “You have to plan well ahead. In the spring, plan for fall. And, take into account the cows have to be somewhere during stockpiling.

“The key to the whole thing is management. You have to be a good planner and think months down the road. You’ll put in as much desk time as you do in the field.”

Reprinted with permission, copyright 2018, Progressive Farmer/Telvent DTN, LLC

Weathering Climate Change Through Rotational Grazing

Regardless of which side you are on in the climate change debate, there’s no denying that weather is becoming more and more unpredictable. Extreme rain, heat and drought in the Midwest and throughout the country present new challenges for farmers. Rotational grazing is a solution that can enhance a farm’s ability to withstand the effects of these weather extremes.

Improving soil health and building organic matter through rotational grazing both reduces erosion and increases the moisture-retaining capacity of the soil.

Jim Munsch

“If you are doing rotational grazing correctly there is always something growing on the soil, and it is abundant,” says Jim Munsch, a Wisconsin beef farmer and rotational grazing expert. “If you have a vibrant plant growth covering the soil, you dramatically reduce the incidents of erosion in high-rain events.”

After 30 years of rotational grazing on his farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Munsch boasts zero predicted erosion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil erosion prediction calculations. NRCS measures the soil loss tolerance rate, or T, to determine the maximum soil loss allowed without damage to crop productivity.

“If you lost T every year, nature could not keep up and eventually there would be no top soil,” explains Munsch.

The cover resulting from rotational grazing drastically reduces that loss, even with heavy rainfall. Additionally, the process of intensive grazing–moving the animals daily–and allowing time for regrowth builds organic matter, which increases the soil’s ability to hold moisture.

“When we used to have crops on the land at our farm, we had organic matter of about 1.8%,” notes Munsch. “Through 30 years of rotational grazing, we now have fields that are, on average, around 4% and some with 4.5% organic matter.”

For every 1% of organic matter, the soil can hold 20,000 gallons of water. That’s about ¾ of an inch of rain. On a farm such as Munsch’s with 4% organic matter, moisture from a 3-inch rain will be absorbed. A farm without that level of organic matter will experience runoff and erosion.

“From an environmental stand point, it is important for the soil to be able to hold a lot of water as a shock absorber for these large rain events,” notes Munsch. “Climate change also brings periods of drought. And if your soil is holding 20,000 gallons of moisture per 1% of organic matter, you are building up a reservoir of moisture in the soil to help you ride through a drought.”

Additionally, rotational grazing creates a canopy of standing grass throughout the pasture, which shades the soil, keeping it cool and reducing evaporation.

Carbon-building through grazing

Building organic matter in the soil takes time. Munsch estimates that it took about 15 years of rotational grazing on his farm to build significant organic matter. Rotational grazier, Vince Hundt experienced a measurable difference in organic matter within five years at his farm in Coon Valley, Wisconsin.

Vince Hundt

“We soil tested 35 acres that we transitioned from crop land to rotational grazing in 2008 and then again in 2013. I was astonished that all the tests came back having moved from the 2-3% organic matter category to the 3-4% category in just five years of managed grazing,” notes Hundt.

Building organic matter through managed grazing is the simple process of plants using the sun’s energy to pull carbon-dioxide out of the air, then hanging on to the carbon and releasing the oxygen back into the atmosphere. The carbon-collecting capability of rotational grazing has many scientists calculating it as a possible key to reversing climate change. While that calculation remains open to debate, there’s no debate on the ability of rotational grazing to build healthy, profitable pastures.

“With rotational grazing a cow walks along, eats the grass, leaves most of the carbon behind in the form of manure, and moves on to the next paddock. With the cow gone for the next 30 days or so, the fertilized plant now has even more vigor and a rest period to regrow and build an even larger root system that is made up of even more carbon.” explains Hundt.

Underground, the pasture plant community is building a monster root system and a powerhouse of diverse biological activity.  “It all starts with carbon,” adds Hundt. “It’s the key to the kingdom. If you want the soil on your farm to be resilient and able to handle any weather, you need to elevate the carbon content, biological diversity and organic matter, and the best possible technique to do that is rotational grazing.”

The importance of mobile shade

With an increasing number of days with high temperatures, the ability to put shade where you need it is becoming more and more valuable. Mobile shade allows for uninterrupted grazing, even on the hottest days, even in managed grazing systems that include paddocks with no trees. Utilizing movable shade structures such as the Shade Haven results in even distribution of nutrients throughout a paddock, while also minimizing production losses associated with heat stress.

“A lot of us in the past have used trees. If we knew it would be really hot, we would put the animals where they have access to the shade of those trees,” explains Munsch. “But with more and more hot days, it restricts where you can put animals. With the Shade Haven you are actually moving shade onto a pasture that may not have natural shade, so you can now use that pasture or paddock.”

That sentiment is echoed by other leaders in the rotational grazing realm. In the December 2017 issue of The Stockman Grass Farmer, grazing expert Joel Salatin calls mobile shade “far superior to shade trees because we can place the urine and manure on precisely the spot where it’s most needed.” In that same article Salatin discusses the profitability of mobile shade and predicts, “I’m looking for the day when shademobiles dot the countryside with every herd of cattle.”

As weather challenges the agriculture industry, Shade Haven is happy to be part of the solution for farmers throughout the U.S. and the world.

Kiko Family Farm Goes All Grass

Ohio farmers transition from grain farming to year-round grazing

Peter Kiko’s farm in Dalton, Ohio, consists of 190 acres of grasslands that sustain his herd of registered black Angus year-round. And while Kiko’s farm today is a chemical-free oasis surrounded by conventional dairy and grain farms, it wasn’t always that way.

“Up until about six years ago we were conventional grain farmers. We did everything by the book the modern way, with all the chemicals, the GMO seed, all that kind of stuff,” says Kiko. “But it just didn’t feel right.”

A pivotal moment occurred when Kiko told his daughter to shut her windows to avoid exposure to the toxic chemicals he would be spraying on the soybean field behind her house. She asked, “Why would you put that on your farm, Dad?”

Soon after, he converted his grain fields to grass, purchased some beef cattle and started intensive grazing.  “We applied for a USDA label for all-natural grass-fed beef with no antibiotics and no chemicals, and we’ve been selling all-natural grass-fed beef ever since.”

Year-round grazing

Currently Kiko grazes about 70 brood cows. All female calves stay on the farm to be raised with the herd and bull calves are sold. Each year the open heifers are sold and processed for beef. “So either we will get a bred heifer that gives us a calf, or we will have a nice fat female that we sell for beef,” says Kiko. “And if we have a brood cow that comes up open, that’s what we sell for hamburger.”

Kiko says he is still trying to figure how many animal units the farm can handle. “We haven’t hit the max yet.”

The farm follows a mob grazing model—intensive grazing with multiple moves daily within a paddock—for optimal forage quality and production. “We only give the cows exactly the amount of grass they need,” notes Kiko.

A perimeter fence encloses the entire 190 acres. Using a single strand of wire and fiber glass posts, the cows are kept in a paddock with three-days’ worth of grass. The cattle are then moved twice a day within that section.

“After three days the cattle are completely removed from that paddock,” adds Kiko. “Then that grass gets to completely heal and there are no cattle on it for several months.”

Moving the cattle twice a day takes time, but it ultimately adds to the farm’s profits. “It’s like you are going out there and feeding hay, but instead you’re going out there and feeding them standing grass.”

Allowing an extended healing time before turning cows back on a section promotes healthy regrowth. That enables year-round grazing, even after the snow flies.  “That grass is up past your knees, and it’s real bushy,” says Kiko. “So if it snows, the grass will hold the snow up off the ground. And the cattle will get their nose up underneath and lift the snow up and eat grass.”

Though drought conditions forced Kiko to purchase hay a couple years ago, that’s not typically the case. “If we can go year-round without hay, that makes it profitable, and the cows are healthier because they are eating the grass. It gets a little wilted in the winter, but the nutrient value is as good or better than dry hay in the barn.”

Mobile shade in 2018

For Kiko the one thing that interrupted the movement of cattle across the farm was the summer sun. On hot humid days, he had to move the cattle where they had access to shade – either near trees or under a permanent shade structure.

“It messed up our system,” notes Kiko. “And all the manure was ending up in the woods or underneath the shade by the water and that would create mud and fly problems…We actually lost a couple cows over the years because of heat.”

After researching Shade Haven mobile shade structures, Kiko purchased an SH1200 in fall 2017.  And though he hasn’t used it yet, he considers it a wise investment. “We’re paying for one whether we have one or not, because we’re losing performance in the cattle. We might as well have one and get the benefits.”

Kiko plans to use the Shade Haven in the hottest part of the summer. “We’re hoping it helps us keep the flies down, keep the manure and urine spread across the farm, because we’ll move it across the farm, take some stress off the cattle. The breeding season is August 1 to October 1, so we catch the heat in August. We are hoping we notice it in our conception rate.”

Bringing the farm back to life

Three generations of Kikos – five children and five grandchildren – work the farm and help with the family’s auctioneer business. The youngest son Jake is the farm’s herdsman and Kiko’s wife Joni and daughter Lana handle the beef sales. “The grandkids are all involved with the cattle and the calving. It’s kind of a family affair,” notes Kiko, who does not regret his decision to convert the farm to natural grasses.

The farm is getting healthier, says Kiko. As the soil builds up organic matter, it becomes increasingly more drought resistant. The grasslands now provide habitat for numerous rare bird species, which has made the farm a popular stop for area birders.

“As you’re out there walking on the soil, you can feel it,” says Kiko. “It’s like the farm can breathe again. We went from mining the soil to building top soil. It’s a good feeling.”

The Kiko Family. Peter Kiko in middle with grand daughter on shoulders.

 

Shade Haven Featured in Top Ten Most Read Articles

Shade Haven mobile shade structures are featured in #3 on Gallagher’s list of “Top 10 Most Read Articles of 2017.” In the article titled, “Cattle Comfort Strategy Realized Using Rotational Grazing,” Wisconsin farmer Vince Hundt discusses his successful rotational grazing strategy.

In the article, Hundt states, “If you want to be successful in grass-fed or grass-finished beef in today’s business climate, you have to be very focused on the quality and care of your pastures.” He accomplishes that by using the right tools, including Gallagher fencing products and Shade Haven mobile shade structures.

Read article here.

Introducing the SH600

Shade Haven is proud to introduce the SH600. It’s a smaller version of our SH1200 with the same functionality and durability as the larger unit. It’s a perfect fit for herds of less than 30 cattle as well as goats, sheep, chickens, alpacas and other livestock.

Specifications:
Span: 30 ft.
Height: 9.5 ft.
Shade Area: 600 sq. ft.
Weight: 2000 lbs.

Special introductory pricing available if purchased before the end of 2017.

Contact us today!

 

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.