The Shade Haven SH600 mobile shade system at Doyle Farm in Dixon, California, fits perfectly with the farm’s holistic agriculture model. With a Shade Haven, the farm maximizes land use while preventing heat stress and boosting livestock performance in a locale that regularly hits triple digit temps from July through September.
“We have Angus cattle. We know they will not do well in this heat without shade. That’s why we purchased the Shade Haven,” says farm manager Matt Wilke, a former chef turned sustainable agriculture expert.
Wilke took the farm manger job at Doyle Farm four years ago tasked with building the 22-acre farm from the ground up using a holistic approach that integrates livestock with fruit and vegetable production. There’s a lot happening on this little farm. A plot of row crops, vegetables, and lavender covers one section, with fruit trees running throughout the pasture.
“The model is to work toward zero input – to get all our fertility from the livestock,” says Wilke. “The pasture and the fruit trees work in tandem as kind of a little ecosystem.”
Broiler chickens are the primary livestock at Doyle Farm. Last year Wilke produced 800 birds and expects to increase to 3000 this year. Currently just three Angus beef enjoy the comfort of the Shade Haven, though Wilke plans to expand the herd to 20 this grazing season. “The method we do is a mob graze with small, confined paddocks with electric wire,” explains Wilke. “The cattle move every single day. They get enough grass for one day and move to the next spot, and the Shade Haven moves with them.”
Though Doyle Farm is not certified organic, everything on the farm is done with organic in mind. No chemicals are used on the land or animals. Wilke added a mineral feeder to the Shade Haven along with fly traps. “The flies out here are a major issue, and since we aren’t using any ivermectin or pour over solutions, to be able to have something out there that helps control the flies has been huge.”
The Shade Haven is critical to keeping the cattle healthy in the California sun. “It is essential to create that low-stress environment for the animals. It allows me to be hands off in terms of medications and vet visits.”
During the winter months, when most Shade Haven customers store their Shade Haven, Wilke continues to find it useful. “The cattle like to rub on something…if I bring the Shade Haven out, they prefer to rub on that, so it keeps them away from my trees.”
The products produced at Doyle Farm and several other farms in northern California are sold through Tank House Farms, which supplies restaurants, catering companies, a culinary school and wedding venues that fall under the umbrella of Sonoma’s Best Hospitality Group. “Everything we produce here is already earmarked and goes straight to the supply chain of the restaurants,” notes Wilke.
As things get growing at Doyle farm, Wilke is excited about increasing his livestock numbers, possibly adding some dairy cows or a dairy goat herd. “We are bumping it up every season, trying to get this place to full production.”