It has been quiet on the farm this winter-real quiet. I needed a
project that would not only occupy my time but serve as a bridge to
thoughts of green and lush spring pastures. It got it, this project
I would rather put weight on cattle in the winter than in the heat of
July and August; cattle seem to deal with the cold much better than
extreme heat. Cattle typically seek shade or shelter during the worst
heat of summer and eating is the last thing on their minds. When
cattle don’t eat they don’t gain weight, sometimes they lose weight.
I needed to change this situation.
I have wanted portable shade for the cattle for at least five years.
I priced a portable shade structure that looked like an umbrella and
the cost lit my hair on fire. So many times, I can find ideas on
extension sites or colleges that specialize in agriculture and
recently found plans for a portable shade structure at the University
of Kentucky College of Agriculture, thanks UKY.
I started with 2 ½ inch square steel and welded what is basically a
large rectangular box with skids that form its base. This large box
is ten feet wide, eight feet tall and 24 feet long. I made 45 degree
angle braces at each corner for added strength. This whole structure
will not need to hold much weight as it will be covered with only
shade cloth that does not hold rainwater. I made the structure strong
as it needs to resist constant rubbing from cattle and the effects of
movement when going from paddock to paddock behind my four wheeler. I
welded brackets on top of the structure to hold 20 foot treated 2×6’s
mounted across the width of the structure in order get more shade
area. I haven’t attached the shade fabric yet as I expect more snow
and the weight may rip the fabric. In the future, I will store these
structures indoors during the off-season. I have considered adding
small misters to further cool the cattle during the worst of summer
but I may keep it simple until I see a real need.
The beauty of this project is that the cattle stay on pasture even
when it is very hot yet remain comfortable. I can move the structures
to distribute the cattle manure in the pasture instead of having to
haul it from a barn. I spread seed on the pasture sometimes and can
focus the cattle in that area by moving a shade structure into the
area. Their hooves can then incorporate the seed plus add the
If you look back at this column, please find every instance when I
said “I” and replace it with “we.” It was my project but the
expertise behind my efforts belongs to Bryan Steiger. Bryan gave up a
snowmobile outing to hang-out with me on a Saturday and build one of
my projects. Bryan says he’s not much of a teacher however I would
argue that he teaches by strong example rather than constant
instruction. I got to help which began my training towards a
certificate in wire-welding from Steiger Technical College. I
couldn’t have completed this project without him.
I plan to introduce the shade structures early on this spring so the
cattle become accustomed to them prior to the worst heat. I hope the
cattle gain more weight as a result of the structure. However if my
steers are more comfortable and don’t pant or look miserable, that
will be good enough for me.