Tag: Shade Haven

A Shade Haven and a 12th Century Abbey

Our European distributorMan@Machine shares a customer’s insight on grazing with a SH1200 Shade Haven mobile shade system at an organic farm near Leuven, Belgium.

Article written by Rosa de Nooijer

In the outskirts of Leuven, Belgium, stands an Abbey that was built in 1129. Today, in 2023, the land surrounding the ‘Abdij van Park’ is used by a cooperative of farmers. The meadows are grazed by their cattle, and the fertile soil is used to grow potatoes, cereals, vegetables, and fruit. Passing by on a summer day, you might spot the cows ruminating in the shade provided by the Shade Haven that farmer Ine Craenhals got for them. We asked Ine some questions about the role of the Shade Haven on the farm.

Q: Can you tell us about yourself and your farm?
Ine: “We are BoerEnCompagnie, a mixed, organic farm near Leuven. The farming cooperative is made up of different partners, such as the farmers, active participants, and a board. We run the farm as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where those with an annual subscription can come and harvest the vegetables and fruit that we grow. Additionally, there are different subscriptions to packages that include dairy, meat, cereals (and flour), potatoes and bread.

I joined BoerEnCompagnie as a partner in 2018. That is also when we started milking the herd as well as processing the milk. We have a herd of 15 dairy cows. The calves spend a minimum of three months with their mothers. We process all the milk into various products that are combined into packages that customers can subscribe to. We also sell all the meat ourselves.”

Q: Why did you start looking for a shade structure for your animals?
Ine: I saw that our cows were having a hard time on hot days. Our farm is located on the grounds of the old Abbey. The surrounding landscape is protected, so planting trees is not possible everywhere. We decided to plant as many as we were allowed to because they play an important role when it comes to supplying minerals. Even though we would have loved to plant more trees, we also knew that they would take a long time to grow large enough to protect the herd. That is when we started looking for a mobile shade structure. Now, I am convinced that a mobile shade spot has many advantages over a tree because you can influence where in the meadow the animals spend their time. Otherwise, in warm weather they would always under ‘that one tree’, which means that too much fertilizer falls in one place. This results in the grass no longer growing and so on. We also work with rotational grazing and without a Shade Haven we always had to give them access to the same part of the pasture on hot days. But… those warm days turned into warm periods, so we ran into problems with food. We also worked with a temporary fence in a shady spot, but we were not allowed to turn it into a permanent pasture. And that temporary fence requires a lot of work. Not just that, but with this shady spot the same rule applies: the manure always falls in the same place.

Q: What are the benefits of the Shade Haven?
Ine: “The fact that you can spread the manure and always allow the shade to go with the herd. The Shade Haven is incredibly user-friendly! It is so easy to fold and unfold. I even enjoy it. The structure is very robust: nothing has broken yet, even when the wind blows a little harder. Of course, it is important to keep an eye on the wind, but it can handle quite windy days. The good thing is that, when I do close it, the cows no longer need it because the wind cools down enough.”

Q: Are there also negatives? If so, have you found solutions for that?
Ine: “You need a tractor or something similar to move the Shade Haven. We don’t always have one right next to the meadow. I have not found a permanent solution for it yet. Though I have been thinking that maybe I would want to train a cow to pull it. I think that for us it is a matter of better organizing the grazing system so we can keep up with the work we are already doing anyways. But I try to keep in mind that we have only been milking for 6 years, so we are still learning a lot.”

Q: Have you seen a difference in the behavior of the herd since you have the Shade Haven?
Ine: “They love the Shade Haven. They walk there -even when they have fresh grass- to rub themselves on the brushes and of course to cool down (not just in the shade, but also in the breeze due to the lower temperature). They really get through the hot days better than before.”

Q: Why would you recommend others to also purchase a Shade Haven?
Ine: “It’s so easy to use, there is no maintenance, and it is well made. You will have no more worries. The animals feel much better and they continue to give good milk on hot days.”

Q: How do other farmers and people who visit the farm react to the shade haven?
Ine: “The reactions are always very positive, and people are curious about it. The price of the Shade Haven scares some people away. Even though I understand that, you have to look at it as an investment, just like a like a tractor or a good milking machine. We were fortunate that we could count on support from the Abbey. Otherwise we would never have been able to buy this because we were only just beginning. Now that we have one, I wouldn’t want to miss it ever again. Talking about money, it is important to mention that planting and replanting trees to protect livestock also costs a lot of money, which is often forgotten. Finally, I think farmers can also look at subsidies to make such investments (in Flanders, for example, the VLIF).”

Q: What is your future dream for keeping animals on farms/for the animals on your farm?
Ine: “I would like to focus more on the grazing on our farm and get better at it. There’s nothing more fun than being among the cows in the meadow and setting up the fences for the next few days. This way I hope to be able to get more milk from grazing. As long as the cows are grazing happily, I am happy as well.

We want to thank Ine for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions.

Man@Machine is a European importer of the Shade Haven. European farmers interested in adding mobile shade should contact info@manatmachine.com or by calling +31644428391

Our 2023 Shade Journey

As we stand at the dawn of a new year, I can’t help but reflect on the remarkable journey Shade Haven has undertaken in 2023. Despite looming economic uncertainty, our team not only weathered the storm – and the hottest summer on record – but emerged stronger and poised for an even brighter future.

The year began with a sense of apprehension. Inflationary pressures cast doubt on farmer spending, and a volatile supply chain threatened material availability and cost stability. Yet, amidst these challenges, the Shade Haven spirit shone brighter than ever. We leveraged our industry expertise and solid customer relationships to navigate the choppy waters. We prioritized agility, adapting our production schedules and sourcing strategies to stay ahead of the curve. Most importantly, we never lost sight of our core values – integrity, innovation, and dedication to regenerative grazing practices.

In 2023, we transitioned from a leased facility to our own facilities where we have greater control over manufacturing and assembly. The move signifies our long-term vision, our unwavering belief in the future of regenerative agriculture and our role in shaping it. With control over production processes and a culture of innovation, the stage is set for future growth and product development.

This year we delivered shades to customers in 20 states as well as Canada and Europe. Despite the turbulence of 2023, we remain the industry’s most trusted mobile shade solution. The demand for our mobile shade systems during the hottest summer on record demonstrates the importance and the long-term benefits of our products. As temps continue to soar, we are committed to helping farmers protect their livestock, profits and the planet.

Shade Haven has always been more than just an agricultural equipment company. We are a community of passionate individuals united by a shared purpose – to cultivate a better future for agriculture.

Thank you for being a part of our journey.

Stay Cool,

Reed Doerr, Shade Haven President

Ten Years of Shade

First Shade Haven ever sold still going strong at Breezy View Dairy

More than a decade has passed since Shade Haven LLC introduced a breakthrough mobile shade structure that is built to last, simple to use, and offers a long-term solution to keep livestock comfortable and grazing in the scorching summer sun. In 2013 dairy farmer Harold Eichelkraut saw the potential in this innovative new grazing tool and purchased the very first Shade Haven SH1200.

That Shade Haven remains an indispensable asset at Breezy View Dairy, a 100-year-old family farm in Paoli, Wisconsin. “I use the Shade Haven every day,” says Darren Eichelkraut, who took over the farm from his father in 2015.

Eichelkraut recalls the initial curiosity of neighbors asking about the “giant UFO in the field.” That curiosity has turned to admiration after eleven successful grazing seasons. “The Shade Haven has become symbolic of our farm,” notes Eichelkraut. “It’s rare to see cows grazing in this area.”

A need for Shade 

Cool cows graze more. That means more milk and more profits. The Shade Haven also plays a critical role in preventing mastitis and other bacterial infections by keeping the cattle on dry ground. Eichelkraut emphasizes, “We have just a handful of shady spots. It doesn’t take long to turn those into muck holes. With the Shade Haven, we can move around and continue to graze and not create those muck holes.”

The 53-head milking herd at Breezy View graze over about 100 acres, split into 3-acre paddocks. “The cows get fresh pasture every 12 hours,” explains Eichelkraut. “I use polywire to break the 3-acres into what I think the cows will need in a 12-hour period, depending on the season.”

Eichelkraut uses a tractor or 4-wheeler to move the Shade Haven along with the cattle. The ten-year-old shade structure has held up to the cattle and the weather with minimal maintenance. When bad weather is looming, Eichelkraut easily closes the Shade Haven. “I only had it open through one big storm, and it did rock it. But all I had to do was replace a couple poles, and we were up and running the same day.”

While Eichelkraut appreciates the solid construction and ease-of-use, the cattle absolutely love the Shade Haven. “The cows like to have a place to gather. Having the Shade Haven out there keeps them in the pasture rather than having them pile up around the cow tank or the buildings.”

Sustainable farm life

As a fifth-generation dairy farmer, Eichelkraut is proud to continue his family’s legacy along with his wife, Nicole, and two young children. The Eichelkrauts converted the farm to organic in 2011 and sell their organic milk to Westby Coop Creamery. They also grow all their own feed crops.

Situated just 15 miles south of Madison, Breezy View Dairy stands out for its commitment to sustainable farm practices and cattle welfare. With an up-and-coming agritourism business nearby, the cattle are in a highly visible area. When people see the grazing practices and the Shade Haven at Breezy View Dairy, it’s obvious these farmers care about their animals and the land.

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.”

Grazing: The Climate-Smartest Practice

 

A well-deserved amount of attention along with billions of dollars are being devoted to finding solutions to mitigate climate change. What is the most effective agricultural practice to capture carbon and battle climate change?

While cover crops are a way for farmers to prevent runoff and keep soil and nutrients on the field, recent studies show it may not be the silver bullet its hyped to be for combating climate change. In contrast, the ability of rotational grazing to sequester carbon is indisputable. In fact, grazing is the only agricultural method sure to put carbon in the ground.

The chart below, created by the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, compares ecosystem benefits of a managed pasture to fields with and without cover crops.

The study also looked at profitability of livestock systems that incorporated managed grazing. The conclusion:

“The single most effective agricultural practice for delivering an array of ecosystem services while returning a sustainable income to farmers is managed grazing of perennial pastures.”

Ready to graze?

Successful managed grazing requires three things: portable fencing, portable water, and portable shade. Shade Haven is proud to be part an agricultural practice that is truly climate-smart.

Protect your animals, your profits, and the planet, while your pasture breathes in carbon.

The Smallest Living Things

Shade Haven is part of the radical change needed in our food system. Lewis Family Farm in Essex, NY, is one of many farms using Shade Havens to improve animal welfare, boost soil health, and focus on the smallest things that are critical to human health.

Watch & Listen
Shade Haven customer, Sandy Lewis, owner of Lewis Family Farm, speaks out against the overuse of antibiotics and the importance of caring for microbiomes.

Hayou Sheep Graze with Shade

First generation farmers, Adam and Allison Young purchased their Staunton, Virginia-based farm, Hayou Farm, in 2018. With minimal infrastructure in place, they started with fencing; then came the sheep. Today, 200 Katahdin sheep rotationally graze across 350 acres of pasture along with two SH1200 Shade Haven mobile shade systems.

“Our farm has a lot of pasture, and 98% of it is without trees. The Shade Haven has been a game changer. We wouldn’t be able to graze some of these fields all summer without it,” says Adam Young, who left his job as an airline pilot to farm full time in 2021.

The Youngs raise sheep in part because they are easy to handle, especially for Allison, who was the number one farmhand before Adam quit his other job. “There aren’t a lot of people raising sheep around here,” notes Young. “And we grow a lot of fruit here, too, so we can incorporate the sheep grazing around the fruit trees.”

Katahdin sheep are a hair sheep breed that originated in Maine. These hardy, low-maintenance sheep are known for their meaty carcass, though the Youngs don’t market the meat. Instead, they plan to sell breeding stock to small farms interested in raising sheep that do well on grass.

The Youngs typically run about 70 ewes, but the spring lambing season doubled their flock to just under 200. “We bred 57 this past year. Next year we will breed about 75,” says Young. “We are slowly growing.”

Grassfed and stress-free

The sheep at Hayou Farm are 100% grassfed. The Youngs use managed grazing practices, moving the sheep daily then letting that pasture rest for 30 to 40 days. The Shade Haven fits into the farm’s regenerative grazing methods, especially in areas of the pasture without ideal forage diversity – something Young hopes to improve.

“We like the mobility of the Shade Haven. If we need to focus on an area that has a lot of brambles and lack of fertility, we can put the Shade Haven there on a hot day and the sheep will congregate there,” says Young.

After just one grazing season with the Shade Havens, Young has already observed the impact on both the land and the sheep. “We can tell where we have had the Shade Haven months later. The regrowth there is good. But we really notice the impact in the health of the animals. They are putting on good weight…We are trying to get our breeding values up and meet certain weight goals, and the Shade Haven has been a valuable tool to help us do that.”

The SH1200 mobile shade system gives Young peace of mind that his flock is comfortable and healthy even on the hottest days. “Sheep are a bit more fragile than cows. You have to manage their stress load or they will get worms and have other health issues.”

“We’ve seen what happens when they get stressed out. They get hot and they are panting. They don’t gain weight or produce milk, so the babies don’t look as good,” adds Young. “The biggest benefit of the Shade Haven is being able to manage that stress in the sheep.”

The Youngs recently purchased ten bred beef cows. As the cattle herd grows, there may be a third Shade Haven in this farm couple’s future. For now, it’s the sheep who enjoy stress-free comfort under the Shade Haven. “They love it,” says Young. “They all pack under there. On a hot day, I know where they will be.”

Hayou Farm offers U-Pick organically grown raspberries, blackberries and blueberries beginning in June. In the process of growing an orchard, they hope to also offer apples, pears and peaches by 2025. Find more details on this Shade Haven customer at hayoufarm.com.

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.”