Shade Aids Organic Valley Pasture Project

Since it began in 1988, Organic Valley has embraced farm practices that protect land, livestock and human health. The cooperative’s farm and land program involves ongoing research on cover crops, crop rotations, minimum tillage practices and carbon sequestration. In 2020 a grazing project on a test farm near its headquarters in La Farge, Wis., involved 15 heifers, movable fencing, portable water and a Shade Haven mobile shade system.

“We intensively moved the cattle to sequester carbon and maintain a healthy pasture and quality feed for our animals,” says grazing project lead Zach Biermann.

Biermann, who has worked at Organic Valley since 1996, said mobile shade was a critical component of the project to prevent heat stress and keep the cattle comfortable, since animal welfare is at the heart of good grazing practices.

“We brought in the Shade Haven, because we are trying to be the best at pasture in the world,” says Biermann. “Avoiding heat stress is required to meet our animal care standards, Shade Haven allows us to do that in an intensive rotational grazing setup.”

The cattle were moved daily along with the SH1200 that was equipped with an attached mineral bucket and fly control system. Biermann was impressed that the black shade canopy on the Shade Haven created a breeze for the cattle below even on a still, 90 degree day. It’s no surprise the heifers congregated under the Shade Haven wherever it was on the pasture.

“The benefit of that was nutrient management,” notes Biermann. “I was able to place the Shade Haven where we needed the nutrients the most. As this project traveled around in a clockwise circular motion, we were able to move the nutrients around and evenly distribute those nutrients on the pasture.”

Comfortable cattle gain weight, and Biermann was pleased with the gains at the end of the grazing season.

“Fifteen heifers came into the pasture program at 550 pounds average and left at about 700 pounds average.  So they had 150 pound gain in 94 days of using the Shade Haven.”

Biermann also expects to see improvement in soil as a result of the grazing project and mobile shade, though it is too early to know those results.

Certain to be part of further grazing and soil building research, Shade Haven is proud to help Organic Valley meet its goal of being the best at pasture.