Summer Shade for Stock

Hot summer days are great for ripening crops and growing pasture. Along with the upside of high temperatures, there can also be a downside if you are an animal in a paddock with no shade. We have been driving around the countryside collecting seed and regularly see animals in the heat of the day struggling to keep cool. This is particularly hard on dark-coloured animals such as Angus cattle and Friesian cows. Newly-shorn sheep are also at risk of getting sun-burnt. Recent research in New Zealand has shown that dairy cows that spend more time in shaded areas will produce a higher milk yield. Keeping cows shaded for only 80 minutes during the heat of the day can result in a 3% increase in milk yield with no additional grazing.

Providing shade for stock can be achieved in a number of ways. The most effective and practical approach is to have shelter belts running north-south on paddock boundaries so that each paddock has a band of shade in the afternoon sun provided by the shelter belt. A tall, permeable double-row belt made up of a taller tree such as a Eucalypt, Poplar or Lowland Ribbonwood and an underplanting of Pittosporum, Flax or Toetoe will not only provide shade in summer but shelter from cold winds and rain in winter and spring.

Another option for creating shade is to plant groupings of trees such as Poplars, Birch, Alders or Oaks  in gullies where they are not going to interfere with cultivation. Effective shade can be provided by 5 or so trees planted far enough apart so that they can grow to their full width, thus providing maximum shade per tree. Stock will naturally gravitate to these areas when it is hot.

If the farm contour is mainly flat, then planting in paddock corners can be effective by using trees with a broad or rounded habit such as Oaks, Alders and Kowhai. Triangular paddock corners can be more easily fenced to provide protection for the trees from stock.

Conversely, if there are small areas that are too steep for cultivation, they can be fenced off and planted.

Protection from stock can be a challenge but worth the effort. Apart from fencing stock out of shelter belts, drain-flo can be cut and wound around larger trees, large drums can be used as a barrier, wooden, triangular fences can be constructed around larger trees and plastic tree protectors can protect the bark of larger specimens. Once trees are planted, the hard work is not quite over. Maintenance is essential with release spraying or weeding for the first 2 – 3 years ensuring that the trees will beat the weeds.

Not only will stock enjoy the shade and relief from the summer heat, but you will have created an attractive working environment for yourself, your family and future generations.