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Mobile Livestock Shade: Best Examples

July 20, 2021

There is a somewhat popular phrase that has been going around in our livestock producers’ circles for quite a few years: “We don’t pamper our cows”. Pamper? Wait a minute? Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing? I do understand part of the logic behind the phrase, there is an extreme which is usually good to avoid, but still that doesn’t justify the use of the “no pampering” concept to deprive any farm animals of their basic needs and comfort. What I believe it means is, that we all want low‑maintenance livestock, the kind that does not need pumping up all the time. The kind that does not need chemical crutches to stay alive. I get that. 

I believe that not only is it the right thing to do, it is actually very closely connected to the creation of a financially profitable herd. That is the main difference between providing for essential needs and the basics of life, as compared to artificial living through drugs. Sure, an animal or even a human, can exist without comfort throughout their life, but why? Why live that way when a blessed life is equally possible? Why even consider it when even at the most basic level, animals living in comfort will make us more money?  What I am going to show you is that animals that have all the comforts are not really “pampered poodles”, but they will do better, and in turn, they will help you do better. 

This whole issue came to light for me when I visited the Wisconsin farm of Vince Hundt. Vince is the person who engineered and created the Shade Haven Portable Shade Mobiles. All shade has value, but we have all seen the pasture damage created when the only shade comes when the livestock can bunch up under trees. The concentrated manure can also become a fly breeding ground making those matters worse. Heavy fly pressure also makes cattle want to congregate tightly in the shade where they are obviously not grazing, not making profit. This is yet another reason to do everything within your power to lower the fly population! See our previous messages about the Top Ten Ways to get rid of flies.

Joel Salatin, editor of the "Stockman Grass Farmer magazine", long-time grazer and creator of his own home-made shade mobiles stated in the magazine that he “looks forward to the day when shade mobiles will dot every livestock farm in the nation”. I think he is exactly right. Joel was even clever enough to assemble his own shade mobiles utilizing nothing more expensive than used farm junk, for a materials cost of near zero. Not pretty, but the cattle have never once complained! 

Which brings up the whole topic of where to acquire shade mobiles. Obviously, the easiest would be to buy a pre-made and well-designed commercial unit, Shade Haven devices for example. They are a work of art, and perhaps the ultimate in function. They fold up so they can roll down the highway or be trailed behind an ATV, are easy to quickly deploy, and they are built to withstand wind gusts up to 50 mph and many other weather extremes. Accessories include mineral hoppers, oilers for insect repellent and even back scratchers. 

On the other hand, anyone with access to welding equipment, scrap pipe, or iron (and some imagination) can build their own structures. The most beautiful, and perhaps most efficient were built by Ted Stevens for his Texas cattle. Born of sculptured aluminum pipe and rolling easily on used aircraft wheels, these machines look as if they could fly. They do not, but his include mineral hoppers, oilers and even a portable water tank along with mister spray nozzles all around to make grazing near them a happy place. 

Minnesotan rancher Duane Munsterteiger and son Tony have also constructed rugged and muscularly handsome shade units using nothing more exotic than iron pipe and I-beams. They also include mineral hoppers and oilers for flies, one even has a back scratcher. 

In the next issue we will discuss the reasons why you should be providing mobile shade for your cattle.

Matt Buhmann

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