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Shelter and Shade

February 22, 20243 min read

Shelter and shade - two fundamentals that both humans and animals need to live a comfortable life! In the wild, animals generally have a wide area to range and so utilise natural formations in the landscape to provide shade or shelter. Because our farm animals are fenced in - unless you have a huge farm, where the fences encompass large areas, we need to provide both for the welfare of our animals.

Shade and heat

There is nothing worse than seeing a long line of sheep, cows, or other farm animals trying to seek shade by putting their heads between the back legs of the animal in front, just to try and get some relief from the sun and heat. Studies have shown an animal’s production can drop significantly when it is overheated - dairy cows in particular can have their milk volume drop significantly if they are overheated. Why? They spend more time drinking, less time eating and the physiological changes when the cow gets too hot decreases its ability to produce milk. 

How can we provide shade?

Haybale Shade

If you are lucky enough to own a property that has established trees along the fence lines, half the battle is won. Trees provide the most obvious shade for livestock. However, newer subdivisions of land may not have many trees so one of the first jobs that is undertaken is to plant trees. Of course it takes time for the trees to grow to the point where they can provide shade, so one way of providing some shade is to put shade cloth along the fence lines. Depending on where the sun is and the time of the year, the shadecloth can provide at least some respite from the heat by casting a shadow. Big bales of straw can also provide shade. In fact, anything that can be placed along a fence can help.

Sheds can be utilised too. If you have open sheds and there is no other shade around, stock will often take advantage of these to escape the sun. The only drawback is, if there is a reasonably large number of animals, the ground in the shed can get full of faeces pretty quick, which in turn can attract flies.

Another way of providing shade is to construct a corrugated iron wall on two sides where a fence line meets in a corner; this can also provide shelter from prevailing winds. Creating shady areas is only limited by the imagination and it is amazing what can be used that is just lying around the farm.

Shelter

Once again, animals like to shelter from weather if it gets really nasty. While most animals don’t mind rain or even snow, it is when the wind chill factor comes into play that they will often seek shelter. Having a gale blowing and driving rain will make most animals look for a way to escape the unpleasantness.  Again, shelter can be anything from a three sided straw bale construction, to trees and natural formations like humps and hollows. Even long grass will provide respite from wind when the animal hunkers down. 

Sticks

Sheds, either main implement sheds, or ones built to be out in paddocks make useful shelter. Rock walls, or even piles of sticks can provide a wind break. Young animals are particularly susceptible to changes in weather and if you own sheep, you will have noticed young lambs tuck up against their mums for warmth and a wind break when the weather is bad. They will also lie down together sharing the benefits of each other’s body heat.

So, when it comes to shade or shelter for your livestock and there isn’t an abundance of trees, get your thinking cap on and see what can be utilised around the farm to give your livestock a break from the heat or cold, depending on the time of the year. You’ll be amazed at what can be made from very little! 


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Amanda Bowes

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