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Why You Should Make Portable Shade Available To Livestock

July 20, 2021

BETTER ANIMAL GAINS- Now we are talking about how to make a shade mobile pay for itself. And, yes, it is true, they will. After one gets over the original sticker shock of the price, the best part is yet to come. Actually, the main reason we would want to provide portable shade is quite often completely overlooked. We now see the purchase, not as an expense or a cost, but as an investment. Take it directly from Dr. Allen Williams, who lives and does ranching research in consistently hot, Mississippi. He has documented that cattle, no matter where they live, will consume 50 to 70% less dry matter when they are suffering from heat stress. So, not only are they not gaining, they are actually losing condition. Putting condition back on that has been lost is a massively expensive proposition. 

Studies show that cattle start feeling heat stress at any temperature above 72°F. In fact, the copious heat that arises from the 50‑gallon fermentation tank called the rumen means that cattle handle cold weather better than hot weather, actually finding peak function and comfort at around 42°F. Scientific studies show that cattle with access to shade gained 0.47 lbs. a day more than identical cattle and pasture but without shade. This adds up! 

BETTER PASTURE UTILIZATION- It’s quite common to see pastures that are underutilized solely because the cattle do not have what they need, which often includes lack of shade. Getting into these areas of the pastures is essential for maximum utilization of the entire paddock.Dr. Williams also points out another aspect of shade in general. In this case the overall shade protection that keeps soil temperature cooler. Full‑pasture shade can be created by allowing grasses to reach the mid-stage of maturity. This will create soil that is more moist and cooler. Dr. Williams’ study shows as much as a 50°F improvement, often seeing soil temperatures vary from 80 to 140°F when comparing a well-managed pasture vs. one that is poorly managed. This means that cattle standing on poor pastures with overheated soil is about the equivalent of us standing on a hot blacktop road. When that soil temperature reaches 140°F, and it will, we have just destroyed soil livestock populations. When we successfully graze with proper rotation and rest periods, we are sequestering carbon, building more carbon. With each 1% increase in organic matter in the soil, we can store an additional 20,000 gallons of water per acre.

HELPING TO REVERSE THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE- No matter what one’s beliefs about climate change are, no one can argue with the facts, figures and observations that we are getting hotter. We are having more extremes, more droughts, more flooding and more storms than before. There are few, if any, technologies that do more to protect our climate than sustainable, regenerative livestock grazing. We strive daily to achieve the elimination of all bare soil, preventing overgrazed/dead areas and the creation of a full mat of plants. This creates a year‑round protection umbrella over the land that we love. The primary tools that we use include portable water systems, portable fencing, adequate free‑choice mineralization of the livestock and portable shade. 

WHY SETTLE FOR LESS THAN “FEEL GOOD” FARMING?  After all these thoughts about the comfort of the animals, animal performance, soil, plant health and even the saving of the planet itself, what about us? Even the most remote ranch or farm is not out of reach of city people or other concerned citizens that are worried about whether or not farmers care for their animals. The fact is fear of cruelty to animals drives swarms of people to vegetarianism or veganism. When a passersby see's a shade mobile with happy‑looking cattle under it, it is a real traffic stopper. They smile, take photos and they tell their friends. One highly significant ray of light we can give to the people is to show them in every way possible that we DO care and we do provide comfort, and, well, yes, pamper our animals! Almost everyone resonates with happiness whether it is thriving green plants, flowers, calm, grounded, centered farm animals and, luckily for us, they want to see farmers that ar e healthy and concerned for all life and happiness! 

All in all, I think we are approaching a cusp in thinking, call it a paradigm shift if you will. I hope that before long almost every single livestock producer will have that same “aha” moment! We started with portable fencing, portable water, portable mineral hoppers, and now, portable shade mobiles!  I think the time is at hand when we all realize that we can never again afford to put our livestock into a shadeless paddock. I look forward to that day! I know that all of our livestock feel the same way.

Matt Buhmann

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