You are here:  Home  >  From the On Pasture Library  >  Current Article

Shade – Livestock Do Better With It – And Here’s How to Add It

By   /  May 14, 2018  /  1 Comment

    Print       Email

In this week’s Livestock article we talk about how to start down the road of raising more heat tolerant cattle. But what can you do in the meantime? For this week’s Classic by NatGLC, we’ve drawn on two articles we’ve published in the past to give you some ideas for adding shade to your pastures. We thought you’d like a more immediate solution to go this week’s livestock article about breeding heat tolerant animals. Enjoy!

Shade Is Good For Gain

Silvopasture Economics

This information comes to us from a presentation on the economics of silvopasture done by Dr. Larry Godsey of the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri. Click here to download a pdf of the presentation.

The first thing that happens to any creature when it gets hot is it slows down.  It eats less, and its body focuses on the minimum to get by until things cool down again.  For cattle producers that’s bad news because average daily gain will go down.  What’s the difference when animals have shade?

• In a study by the University of Kentucky Animal Research Center on cattle with shade in late spring and early summer they noted these weight gains over those animals without shade:

– 1.24 lbs/day for cows
– .41 lbs/day for calves
– .89 lbs/day for steers

• University of Missouri researchers found that cattle who had shade while grazing endophyte-infected pastures  gained .72 lbs/day more than those without.

• Finally, researchers in Arkansas cattle with shade gained 20% more than those without.

Cool Dairy Cows Give More Milk

When temperatures go up, milk production drops.  Studies done in Florida and Virginia showed that when temperatures went above 90 degrees, milk production dropped by 20 to 30%.  The graph below gives you a good idea what that means for your pocketbook:

Dairy Production Losses Due to Heat Stress

Reproduction and Fertility Improves With Shade

In the sunshine state (Florida) researchers found that conception rates of shaded cattle were 44.4% and those without were only 25.3%. If you’re reproduction rates are down, maybe your cows just need a little more shade.

How Do You Add Shade?


Brett Chedzoy has shared his expertise with On Pasture readers in a number of articles on how to add trees to a pasture, or how to work with the treed areas you have to create a pasture that provides food and shelter both. You can check them out here.

Get an Umbrella

Here’s a solution dreamed up by one of our On Pasture sponsors. Shade Haven, has developed a mobile shade that is light enough to move with an ATV (or by two strong people on level ground), strong enough to withstand wind and weather, and can provide shade for about 60 cows, or a flock of sheep or poultry. Here’s how it works:

ShadehavenandcowsIn addition to better weight gain and milk production, you can use this movable shade to work with your cattle to boost pasture productivity.  For example, since cattle go where the shade goes, you could use its placement to selectively graze areas within paddocks that need more impact or more manure. Or you could simply spend less time worrying about which paddocks have shade and which don’t when you’re planning your pasture rotations.

If you’re interested in learning more, visit the Shade Haven website. If you have other ideas for providing shade, do share in the comments below!

Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible.

The 7th National Grazing Lands Conference is coming up in December and it’s one of On Pasture’s favorites. One of the things that makes it so great is that folks just like you are the speakers, sharing their great experiences. Learn more about how to be a speaker here. And learn more about the event here.


    Print       Email

About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. Paul D. Butler says:

    Using adapted genetics is not only a cheaper approach……….but also much better.

You might also like...

Using Wood Ash to Improve Pasture Soils and Forages

Read More →
Translate »