Tag: Animal Comfort

Prioritize Comfort for Profitable Grazing

Will Winter, DVM, is a firm believer in the benefits of keeping livestock comfortable. Shade is a key aspect of animal comfort, and providing mobile shade for grazing animals is not just humane, it makes economic sense.

Studies at the University of Kentucky’s Animal Research Center indicated beef cows with portable shade during heat stress periods of spring and summer gained weight at an increased rate of 1.23 lb. per day over those without shade. If you have 100 animals, that equates to 3,690 additional pounds of grassfed beef in a 30-day period. Clearly, mobile shade is a smart investment.

The Importance of Comfort
Shade is just one aspect of animal comfort, but perhaps the most critical. “The world is heating up, there’s no question about it,” says Winter. “As we face more climate extremes, grass farmers are going to have to be more vigilant to stay profitable.”

Winter, who transitioned from a traditional large animal veterinarian to holistic practices in 1980, was initially surprised by the lack of research on animal comfort. “I found that interesting because of how much it contributes to monetary profits,” he notes.

In Winter’s opinion, farmers who claim they “don’t pamper their animals,” are missing out on optimal returns on their investment. As a holistic livestock consultant, he advises farmers to prioritize livestock comfort, which includes providing mobile shade, especially while grazing in paddocks with no natural shade.

While Winter believes any type of mobile shade is better than none, he considers the Shade Haven mobile shade system the best commercial option. “I was lucky enough to experience Shade Haven firsthand,” he explains. “There’s nothing above it in terms of portability.”

Beyond Health
Mobile shade not only improves animal health and performance, but also enables the farmer to control grazing patterns. “Rotational grazing with mobile shade helps our pasture get stronger,” says Winter. “When people work on their pasture, they can double or triple their profit per acre, their pounds per acre.”

Mobile shade also mitigates the impact of temperature extremes on gestation and fertility. Additionally, it prevents livestock from cooling off in ponds and streams, reducing the risk of foot rot and other diseases, and keeping contaminates from making their way downstream.

Perception Impacts Profits
In 2020, Winter visited the farm of Shade Haven founder Vince Hundt. “When you drive in the driveway at Vince’s farm, you start smiling and you don’t want to leave,” he recalls. “You see those cattle on pasture under the Shade Haven. They are comfortable and healthy.”

The image of well-cared-for animals influences purchasing decisions – another way comfort equates to profitability for farms who sell their proteins direct to customers.

Winter is critical of factory farming and encourages consumers to know their farmer and value the health benefits of grassfed beef. He is optimistic about the growing trend of regenerative agriculture among young farmers. “We are luring a much younger crowd with grassfed and regenerative agriculture, because it’s fun, it’s not toxic, and you are making incredible food. It’s all a big upgrade in the way we treat livestock.”

Today, Winter chooses consulting over veterinary work. “If I do my job, you don’t need a veterinarian. When animals are comfortable, treated humanely, and eating properly, you don’t need any drugs. Of the 60 producers I currently work with, nobody vaccinates, nobody needs chemical dewormers, nobody uses antibiotics. My job is to get them to that stage and to get them into profitability.”

To learn more about Winter’s holistic consulting services, check out willwinter.com

Read more on Winter’s insight on the importance of Shade in “How and Why Smart Farmers Are Creating Mobile Shade for Their Livestock” published in Stockman’s Grass Farmer, 2021.


Will Winter is a retired veterinarian and holistic herd health practitioner. He has been the herd consultant for Thousand Hills Cattle Co since 2004, and  recently founded the American Holistic Livestock Association. He is the local chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation for Minneapolis-St. Paul. Winter provides consultations, workshops, lectures and access to natural livestock supplies for farmers and ranchers throughout the country,