Tag: grazing

Shade = More Production at Idyll Farms

The increased production possible with Shade Haven mobile shade systems has perhaps never been as obvious as it is at Idyll Farms in Northport, Michigan. This regenerative farm grazes 120 Alpine dairy goats, whose milk is turned into award-winning cheeses in a farmstead creamery. After adding a Shade Haven SH600 to its grazing plan, Idyll was able to double the time its goats are on pasture on hot summer days.

“In the last two years, we were only able to graze two to three hours, because the goats were getting heat stroke,” says farm manager and head cheesemaker, Melissa Hiles. “Since we got the Shade Haven, we are able to graze 6+ hours per day, which is awesome!”

Melissa Hiles

That extra time on pasture impacts the amount and quality of the milk. “It does help production,” notes Hiles. “I check my solids and fats and proteins. Since I’ve had my Shade Haven, I’ve seen my fats, proteins and total solids go up.”

Hiles has also observed better pasture health. “I’ve seen a difference in the density of the forage wherever the Shade Haven has been.”

The grazing plan

Idyll Farms is committed to regenerative agriculture and managed grazing on about 150 acres. After grazing goats for 11 years, Hiles determined a two-paddock-per-day mob grazing pattern works best. A side-by-side Ranger pulls the Shade Haven through the paddocks.

Hiles loves having the Shade Haven in the pasture, and the goats do, too. “They absolutely love it,” notes Hiles. “There is always one that is on the platform and refuses to get down – so she is queen of the Shade Haven.”

The goats tend to stay close to the Shade Haven – something Hiles plans to use to her advantage. “We are going to try to just move the Shade Haven and not the fences for a couple of days. We hope maybe the Shade can save us a little time while we are short staffed.”

Say goat cheese

The 500-acre Idyll Farms started with two goats and a desire to make cheese. Today, the farm’s herd consists of 120 milkers, 15 kids and ten bucks.

Hiles first made cheese on the farm 11 years ago, and her cheese quickly gained recognition. In 2022, Idyll Farms cheese won 7 awards at the American Cheese Society contest and two Best of Class awards at the World Champion Cheese Contest.

The Chilly Billy, Mont Idyll, and numerous spreadable cheeses, are sold at stores throughout the country. Details on the cheese and purchase locations are listed on the farm’s website. For those needing a quick goat cheese fix, there’s even a goat cheese vending machine on the farm stocked with a variety of Idyll Farms cheese.

Thanks to the Shade Haven along with the farm’s regenerative practices, the goats will continue to give an abundant supply of milk to produce these artisanal cheeses. “We want our pastures giving back to the milk,” notes Hiles. “The Shade Haven keeps the goats healthy and on pasture, and they produce better quality milk because of it.”

An Artist’s Vision: Transforming Land Through Regenerative Ag

Shade Haven customer and successful artist, Brenda Smola-Foti set down her paintbrushes in 2017 to focus on the 33-acre farm she purchased in the Willamette Valley near Carlton, Oregon. Committed to farming regeneratively, Smola-Foti has transformed the nearly unfarmable land into a sustainable multi-species masterpiece – Tabula Rasa Farms.

To fulfill her vision for Tabula Rasa Farms, Smola-Foti first had to resurrect land damaged by years of soil erosion and runoff. In a region that annually experiences three to four months with very little rainfall, her biggest challenge was water infiltration and retention.

To enhance water security on the farm, she hired Elemental Ecosystems to repair erosion zones and construct a stock pond and spillways to capture the rains that fell during the rainy season. The process and progress of the water restoration project is documented on the farm’s website.

Enter Shade Haven

Today, the repaired lands of Tabula Rasa Farms support 75 Devon-Dexter mix beef cattle, 100 pasture-raised heritage hogs, and pastured free-range poultry. The livestock are grazed rotationally, a practice that builds the water-retaining capacity in the soil. Smola-Foti says her focus on water retention and rotational grazing go hand in hand – both enable her to get more rotations on the land.

The farm’s three Shade Haven mobile shade systems keep the livestock healthy and on pasture. Two SH1200 Shade Havens are dedicated to the cattle, while the farm’s SH600 keeps the hogs cool and productive. “One pasture where we pasture hogs doesn’t have a lot of trees. We use the Shade Haven there,” says Smola-Foti. “The hogs love it!”

“Summer is pretty hard on animals – especially here in the Pacific Northwest where summers keep getting hotter,” she adds. “We did a lot of research with Joel Salatin on how to move the animals, and how they need shade. If you get them away from the trees, you can better manage the manure.”

For Smola-Foti the Shade Haven is not just a pasture management tool, it keeps her animals comfortable and gaining weight. That’s important to her and her farm’s bottom line. “I love having the Shade Haven in my toolbox. It lets me put the shade where I want it. When we get those really hot temperatures, I can feel good about my animals being outside, because I know they have shade.”

Integration and interconnection

Smola-Foti’s farm supplies beef, pork, chicken and organically grown vegetables to Humble Spirit, the restaurant she launched last year in nearby McMinnville, Oregon. Additionally, the farm’s products are sold direct to customers and to other restaurants through her farm store and online marketplace called Source Farms. Other like-minded regenerative farms in the area also sell their products through Source Farms.

Tabula Rasa Farms is in Oregon’s wine country, a region that draws a lot of tourism. Smola-Foti’s husband Frank Foti joined her on the farm in 2019, expanding her vision of the farm to include more agrotourism and hospitality. The couple added guest accommodations at a nine-room Bed and Breakfast and at the original farmhouse. Tabula Rasa also hosts farm tours and other programing throughout the year. When guests see the Shade Havens in Smola-Foti’s pasture, it is an undeniable symbol of her commitment to regenerative agriculture and humane treatment of her livestock.

In 2022 Smola-Foti and her husband launched The Ground, showcasing products and experiences in the Willamette Valley, primarily centered around regenerative agriculture.

“More and more people are starting to understand the importance of regenerative agriculture on climate and health,” says Smola-Foti, who proudly refers to her farm as a “learning lab,” since many of her farm hands go on to start their own regenerative farms.

Though she knows her art will call her back someday, Smola-Foti says she is content managing and fine-tuning the farm she loves. “Right now, the earth is my canvas.”

Busy Little Farm Needs Shade

Doyle Farm, Dixon, CA

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.”

Holistic Approach

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.”

3 Golden Rules of Grazing

Grazing guru Dr. Allen Williams shares insight on adaptive grazing rules and how he uses Shade Havens in his own grazing practice.

Dr. Williams is a sixth-generation farmer and the founder of Grass Fed Insights, LLC, Understanding Ag, LLC, and Soil Health Academy. He helps farmers and ranchers graze successfully and profitably using the three rules of adaptive stewardship: compounding, diversity, and disruption.

Rule #1 – Compounding. The first rule is to understand that everything we do on a farm has compounding effects – either negative or positive. “Our job is to implement practices that create a series of positive compounding effects,” Williams stresses.

Rule #2 – Diversity. Increasing forage diversity is fundamental to successful grazing.

“Not only do your animals perform better, but you can get rid of your vet meds, your dewormers – you don’t need them anymore,” says Williams. “It saves you a lot in input costs. Your performance goes up, your profitability goes up.”

How do you achieve that high level of diversity? Mother Nature has already done most of the work.

“What we do is utilize the rules of adaptive stewardship and adaptive grazing to be able to access or tap the latent seed lines that everybody has in North America,” says Williams. “The latent seed lines are loaded with dozens even hundreds of different plant species that most people rarely see because of the way they graze.”

Williams has documented 140 different plant species growing in the pastures at his farm, BDA Farm in Uniontown, Alabama. “Our livestock eat all of it – all 140. And we planted none of it. They are a result of the latent seed lines.”

Since 2019, Williams has used four SH1200 mobile shade systems with multiple species that graze at BDA Farm. The Shade Havens protect the livestock from the hot Alabama sun. They also aid in achieving forage diversity. “When cattle or other livestock congregate underneath the portable shade, that creates a high-density impact,” says Williams.

“If you move the shade structure around frequently, you are creating a high-density impact wherever the shade was, and that applies a lot of fertility, a lot of biology to that soil. At the same time, it stimulates the latent seed lines, so you create greater diversity. Everywhere you put that shade and move it like you should, you are creating what we call biological hot spots, highly diverse hot spots.”

Increased plant diversity has positive compounding effects, including better animal health. “The reason we want diversity is because many, many plant species can also be medicinal and anti-parasitic in nature. That means our livestock can self-medicate, can self-deworm,” notes Williams. “We don’t have to give them pharmaceuticals, and we never have to deworm them. They’ve got everything they need.”

Higher plant diversity also leads to greater diversity in the soil microbial population, which leads to a greater array of phytonutrients in the plants themselves. The broad array of plants supports life above the soil, not just your livestock, but other wildlife, birds, insects, and pollinators.

“It benefits your livestock, it benefits your soil, it benefits the plants themselves,” reiterates Williams. “So you get restoration of fully functioning ecosystems. It’s a win-win-win all across the board.”

Rule #3 – Disruption.  Avoid stagnation with the final rule by adding disruption to your grazing plan. Williams suggests altering your stock density, altering rest periods, changing your paddock figuration and rotational patterns.

Portable Shade at BDA

BDA Farm is a 6,200-acre certified organic produce and livestock operation in Uniontown, Alabama. With a focus on regenerative agriculture, BDA produces more than 40 varieties of vegetables and herbs and moves 1,000 beef, 500 sheep and 3,000 laying hens across 4,000+ acres.

Like most grazing operations, BDA has fields without access to shade. The four SH1200 mobile shade systems at BDA Farm boost pasture health and protect the dairy cattle, beef, sheep, pigs, and chickens from the blazing sun. “We get extremely hot. Our livestock must have shade,” notes Williams. “Natural shade is a preference. You can plant it, but it takes a lifetime to grow it. So portable shade comes in extremely handy.”

The Shade Havens compliment BDA’s adaptive grazing strategy. “You want quality portable shade that holds up in all conditions, and it’s easy to move, because you don’t want to just park it in one place. You have to be able to move it around,” says Williams.

Williams appreciates the portability of the Shade Haven whether it’s for livestock or humans attending the many workshops held at the farm. “Because it is so portable, you don’t have to dedicate it to just one species, or just one spot. I can take it to wherever I need it at any time.”


From special ops to a special farm

Shade Haven customer Ron Locke shares the story of his Long Lane, Missouri farm with Hay & Forage Grower, January 1, 2023.


For years, providing shade in some of Locke’s paddocks proved to be a challenge and limited his ability to move cows to certain areas during the hot Missouri summers. Trained to be a problem solver, Locke found his solution with a heavy-duty portable shade unit that he’s been utilizing for the past four years. As the cows move, so does the shade, which he can hook to his utility task vehicle (UTV), move, and set up in a matter of minutes. 

Read article here.

Grazing Right in Missouri

When Ron Locke gets into something, he is all in. After retiring from the Air Force 20 years ago, this southwest Missouri farmer got into raising registered Angus beef cattle. Today he practices artificial insemination, conducts DNA testing on all his calves and intensively grazes his herd of 60 registered Angus mama cows. And while genetics and forages are important, Locke believes it all starts with the soil.

My sole focus now is on the microbial health of the soil – not the cows, not the grass. I pay attention to those things, but my primary focus is the health of the soil,” says Locke, who tests the soil in all his paddocks.

He shares those samples with a professor of soil biology in North Carolina, who incorporates them into one of his programs.

“That has provided me a wealth of information on the microbial health of my soil,” notes Locke. “Most importantly, the very first samples we got gave me a baseline.”

In Locke’s pursuit of farming perfection, there was one thing missing – shade. Adding mobile shade protects livestock from heat stress and provides the ability to manage nutrients and build soil health.

A need for shade 

Fifteen of Locke’s 27 paddocks have no shade. Two of those without shade are warm season grasses, most productive from July through early September when temps in Missouri soar above 90 degrees.

“So here I have these wonderful warm season paddocks and no shade,” says Locke.” I couldn’t put my fall cows in those fields, because it was too hot and they didn’t have shade.”

Locke searched for portable shade for 15 years, but nothing was portable enough or large enough.

“I’ve got to have something that is going to shade 50 or 60 cows. I move cows every day, sometimes twice a day. I don’t have time to move the cows AND six or seven portable shades.”

Then he saw an ad for Shade Haven mobile shade systems. He immediately contacted the company and purchased a SH1200 mobile shade system, ideal for his herd size.

“Now I can put my cattle anywhere I want,” says Locke. “I can move my main fall herd to any paddock on my farm, because I can put that portable shade in it. It has completely changed my ability to graze my fields the way I want to graze them.”

Moving the Shade Haven is quick and stress-free. “It is unbelievably easy to use. It only takes me five minutes to move it.”

While it’s too early to know the impact the Shade Haven has had on the soil, Locke expects positive results.

In addition to the Angus cows, Locke runs a herd of registered bred heifers and another  herd of registered bulls. “So I have three herds and only one Shade Haven,” he adds. “There is no question in my mind there will be another Shade Haven in my future.”

Rethinking Food 

“A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems is more urgent than ever,” states the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPESF) in its Communiqué, COVID-19 and the crisis in food systems: Symptoms, causes, and potential solutions.

The Covid-19 pandemic has indeed exposed flaws in our current food system that relies heavily on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and large-scale meat processing facilities that put the health and safety of its workers, their families and the greater community at risk.

That’s evident at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which processes 5% of U.S. pork. Smithfield was forced to close its facility in mid-April after 518 employees tested positive for the virus. It also closed its plants in VA, MO and WI. COVID-19 caused closures of Tyson, JBS, Hormel and other pork, poultry and beef processors around the country. According to The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, “As of April 27, there have been at least 4,135 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities at 75 plants in 25 states, and at least 18 reported worker deaths at 9 plants in 9 states.”

The closures have caused a ripple effect down the supply chain due to the industry’s monopolies and consolidations. CAFOs, which also face labor shortages due to COVID-19, are now looking to euthanize thousands of animals to make room in their overcrowded facilities.

Though the source of COVID-19 is still not conclusive, it’s a fact that CAFOs are the perfect environment for viruses to emerge and quickly spread.

There is a better way, and we see it on the farms of Shade Haven customers and graziers throughout the country. As the flaws of industrial agriculture are illuminated, the benefits of local and regional systems become clear. Grassfed livestock operations like those of Shade Haven customers produce healthier food, while contributing to the local economy in a way that doesn’t put our food supply at risk during a pandemic. Rotational grazing can even be a solution for climate change by building organic matter in the soil which increases its carbon-capturing capacity.

It is time to rethink our food system. As the IPESF Communiqué warns, “The realizations about the vulnerabilities of our food systems on multiple levels must not be forgotten once the crisis abates.”

Shade Haven salutes the graziers dedicated to farming in a way that is healthier for people, animals, soil and the planet.

Fall Grazing with Greg Judy

Grazing expert Greg Judy shares his grass-growing and grazing expertise.

Frequent moves, never over grazing, and providing shade are all part of the grazing strategy on Greg Judy’s farms in Rucker, Missouri. Judy grazes South Poll cows, cow/calf pairs, bred heifers, bulls and stockers across 16 farms – four owned and 12 leased.

The two-a-day moves Judy makes with his cattle don’t slow down in the autumn months.  “That’s because we have been able to grow so much grass,” he explains.

According to Judy, having ample grass in the fall begins in the spring. “When you give your grass a little head start in the spring and you don’t over graze, it sends back more appendages…If you take off say 1/3 of the leaves, you are going to get more coming back. That is what we have done across all of our farms.”


Stockpiling period typically runs August 1 through the first killing frost. There are two stockpiling methods used by graziers. One is locking cattle down and preventing them from grazing a portion of the pasture. This, Judy says, is not a good strategy for success.

“The problem with that method is when you lock your cattle down on a smaller part of the farm, they over graze that area. You may even have to feed some hay to buy enough time for the rest of your farm to recover and grow stockpile.”

This method could even result in animals dropping weight, adds Judy. “They are used to being moved and all of the sudden you are locking them down. Your cows are losing condition going into winter.”

A better strategy is continually grazing cattle, making sure they never eat the grass down too short. Currently on the fourth rotation on his farms, Judy adds “As we graze around our farms, we are taking just the tips and moving on.”

A farm visitor recently asked Judy why he was moving the cattle when there was so much grass there. He replied, “That’s why I have all this grass. It’s because we moved them.”

The importance of shade

While this might be the time of year for stockpiling, it also includes some of the hottest grazing days. Providing shade for grazing cattle is a top priority for Judy. “We have 350 animals out there. If it’s 90 degrees, I want to make sure they can ALL get in the shade. That’s how important I think shade is.”

“We are in the weight conversion business. If animals are hot and they’re stressed, they are not putting on,” says Judy, using a phrase his father used. “They are not putting weight on.”

Judy’s farm is in an area with rolling hills and trees in every paddock. And while he doesn’t require movable shade himself, he notes for those without trees, “Moveable shade is best, because you’re moving the fertility around your pasture.”

While conducting a workshop in July, Judy observed two Shade Haven mobile shade systems. “It’s a great product, and the fact that you can hook it on to your Kubota and move it is priceless. It’s like planting a tree in your pasture every day that you move your animals. And you’re moving nutrients around. That’s what I like about it.”

No bare soil here

You won’t find bare soil anywhere on Judy’s farms.  That’s because he never lets cattle graze it down that far.

“You can’t intercept solar energy with bare soil. We call ourselves light interceptors. We are trying to intercept that sun before it hits that ground onto a blade of grass, or a bush or it might even be a weed – I don’t care as long as something is growing. I detest bare soil.”

The war against bare soil has an added benefit of easing the impact of weather extremes. “I think droughts and these weather extremes are getting more frequent. We are going to have to learn to manage around this,” notes Judy. “The way you manage around droughts is by keeping longer leaves on your plants. If you always manage your farm like you are in a drought, you will be in pretty good shape when you are in a drought.”

He knows he’s doing it right when his feet get wet walking through the pasture at 11 a.m. on a 90-degree day. “Why are my feet wet? It’s because of the dew. If you have a lot of leaves out there, they capture the dew. So your plants get a little bit of a drink, even in a drought. That’s all they need.”

Judy’s final fall tip for graziers: Observe the condition of your livestock. “In October, any animal on your farm that has a bone sticking out, get rid of it. Don’t take it through the winter. If it looks bad in October, guess what it’s going to look like in January? Don’t let her eat the precious feed that the good ones need. That’s a good way to go broke.”

Catch more grazing tips from Greg Judy on his YouTube channel or attend one of his upcoming workshops.

  • Sept 25-26, 2019 – Stockman GrassFarmer Multi-Species Grazing School, Albany, NY
  • October 6-7th, 2019 Carolina Meat Conference, Charlotte, NC

More information on Greg Judy and his farms at http://greenpasturesfarm.net/


Grants for Graziers

It’s time to start planning for the next grazing season.

Could you use some cash for your pasture or animal health improvement project? The options listed below could help fund your project, whether it’s mobile shade, movable fencing or something else.

Option #1
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – Provides financial assistance to eligible agricultural producers to implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, plants, animal health, air and other natural resources. To apply for EQIP funding, visit your local NRCS field office, in your local USDA Service Center.  More information and links to state programs here .

Option #2
Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) – Pasture Improvement Grants contribute $2,500 toward qualifying projects to improve pasture and grazing systems and overall welfare of livestock.  Last year $66,000 was awarded to 28 independent family farmers in 19 states.

Option #3 – Ask us about financing arrangements for purchases made in 2018. This is not a grant, but it is a way to make adding mobile shade to your 2019 grazing plan a little easier.

Disclaimer: Option 1 and 2 are not Shade Haven sponsored programs. Grant awards and funding decisions are made entirely by NRCS and FACT.

Grazing, Shade and Health

Shade Haven mobile shade systems can increase profitability for livestock graziers through better pasture management and healthier, more productive livestock. Grazing is not only healthier for the cattle, it also results in a healthier product for consumers – both beef and dairy. We caught up with Dr. Guy Jodarski, lead veterinarian for Organic Valley, to get his expert insight on how grazing and shade impact animal health.

Q: Studies indicate grass-fed cattle are healthier and produce more milk. Why is grazing healthier?
A: Grazing itself is a natural behavior for cattle, they prefer to do that. The exercise is good for them, the fresh air, being out in the sunshine and the nutrition of the fresh forage – it’s higher in vitamin content. There are a lot more benefits of grazing to the farmer and to the land. The key is managed grazing, where you’re rotating the cattle. Don’t keep them in one place or let them just run all over. You put them in a smaller area and keep moving them and then resting those areas.

Q: How important is plant diversity to the health of grazing cattle?
A: Diversity is something we’ve been thinking about a lot more in the last few years. Diversity is what is found in nature. You don’t see just one plant; you get a lot of plant species working together. So you have a healthier system that resists challenges in weather, resists disease problems. And it provides the animal with choices of what to eat. Cows are really good at picking out the most nutritious and highest energy level feed. When you put them into a new area, and you look at the plants they are eating and do a little analysis, you’ll find that those are the highest sugar, the highest energy plants. They taste the best, but also have the highest energy content. The idea of diversity from a nutrition standpoint has to do with minerals. Because every plant has a different root structure, and some of the roots go quite deep – especially in perennial plants that come back year after year. So they bring up trace minerals that the animals need and have them in the leaves and stems.

Q: How do you know what should be in your pasture?
A: The best thing is to go to local pasture walks. There are different grazing groups, as well as Extension and Organic Valley that sponsor pasture walks. If you are in a place where there are other farmers that are grazing, there will generally be pasture walks fairly close. Look at what other farmers are doing, what works—especially farmers that are close to where you are. Every region is a little different. There is an organization called GrassWorks that does a nice job of educating people about grazing. There are also different seed vendors with different pasture mixes. Even if you have an older pasture, you don’t have to tear it up. You can do no-till drill into the pasture or do what is called frost seeding early on in the spring to put more clover in your pasture. What you really want is a balance between grasses and legumes and forbs.

Q: What are your thoughts about the importance of shade on animal health?
A: It is nice to see cows out grazing on pasture, but it comes with challenges. Weather is one of those challenges. In grazing season, we have a lot of hot weather, and shade is really important to preventing heat stress in cattle. The two most important things are access to water and access to shade. Shade can be natural with trees, but many people don’t have trees in their pastures. So providing artificial shade is very beneficial. If it is artificial shade, it is important that it is movable, because the cattle will make a lot of manure and foot action that will compact the ground.

Q: Is shade important to better milk production?
A: Yes, but not only for production, it helps milk quality too. It’s also important to keep dry cows cool, because they are carrying a calf. A cow’s body temperature will go up if they are out in the sun, and then at night they will radiate that heat out. The problem with dry cows, if they get up to 105 degrees body temperature and stay at that temperature very long, they could abort the calf.

Q: With mobile shade you can move the shade to create clean lie down area daily, how does that impact the health of dairy cows? It is important to keep the area where cows are congregating clean. If they don’t have shade, they will bunch up and really muck up a spot. Then if they lay down in that spot, mastitis is an issue. In the summertime, in particular, if cows get in mud and manure and they lay in it, they are very susceptible of catching mastitis. With coliform mastitis, E. coli is one of the things that can be involved and that can be deadly. That can kill cows. Even if they don’t get the toxic coliform mastitis, they can get other mastitis that will cause cell counts to go up. So milk quality is a big issue. Foot health is another thing. If they stay in an area and get it mudded up, they can get foot rot and hairy heel wart which can be transferred in those conditions. Keeping the rest area clean and dry is very important, and mobile shade will help that.

Q: Your specialty is dairy, but can you comment on the effects of heat stress on beef and how mobile shade might impact health and productivity beef as well?
It is very similar. In the case of beef – if it is a cow-calf operation, the cows aren’t going to produce as much milk if they are uncomfortable and their body temperature is high, so the calves aren’t going to grow as fast. With steers or stockers that you are looking to put weight on, if they overheat, their appetite goes down. They pant. And if they are just standing around panting, they are not going to gain weight.

Q: Anything other thoughts on the benefits of grazing?
A: It is the most profitable production system for both beef and dairy, because the costs are very low for feed and other inputs. The cattle feed themselves and distribute their wastes – saving time, labor and machine use. Also, with managed grazing the number of tons per acre of grass or hay you grow per year is also going to go up. You can produce two to three times more forage on the same land with managed grazing (compared to a set-stock system). Grazing makes meat and milk more nutritious for people. Good pasture rotation also prevents parasite problems in cattle, which can be an issue for younger animals.

About Guy Jodarski
Guy Jodarski, DVM, based in Neillsville, Wisconsin, is the Lead Veterinarian for CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley. He works in organic and sustainable livestock practice with an emphasis in dairy cattle herd health. Dr. Jodarski has been in practice for 31 years. He enjoys teaching how to keep cattle, swine and poultry healthy without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones and chemicals. Dr. Jodarski serves on the One Health Committee of the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association and is a member of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners and the National Mastitis Council.


Mark Your Calendar

September 19-21, 2018 – Organic Farmers Veterinary Workshop, Viroqua, WI
Want to learn more about keeping your livestock productive and healthy? Plan to attend this informative, hands-on event. Dr. Jodarski will be part of this three-day workshop focused on teaching farmers techniques and tools to diagnose and treat cattle. Includes time on a nearby grazing farm.
Plan now! This workshop is offered just once every two years.

Event Contact: Farmer Hotline, farmerhotline@organicvalley.coop or 888-809-9297