Did you know that for every degree of cold temperature, 1% more feed is needed to keep cattle functioning and producing at the same level? Cattle with a dryer winter coat can withstand temperatures to 32 degrees Fahrenheit with little negative effect. However, if they are outside in a snowstorm, and their coat gets wet, the temperature they can withstand goes up, sometimes as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If wind chill is added into to this equation, your cattle can get very uncomfortable, very quickly. Frigid temperatures can put a lot of stress on your herd. It is important to give ample shelter both inside and out for cows and heifers.
Providing windbreaks is a great way to reduce wind chill on the farm. Stressed or cold cattle will always seek shelter. If provided, windbreaks can help reduce cattle stress, keep them a bit warmer, which in turn means they won’t need to eat as much to continue functioning and producing normally.
Windbreaks should be placed in a high and well drainable area. This will keep the area cleaner for your herd. Natural windbreaks such as trees, bushes, or brush piles can stop the wind and show from drifting. However, if your operation does not allow for trees (or you don’t have time to grow them), artificial windbreaks work just as well.
Windbreaks should be semi-porous. If the wall is solid the wind will go up and over the break and only provide shelter for a couple feet after the wall. With a porous break (80% wind blockage), it will give a larger downwind effect, so the area behind the break is much bigger to provide protection for more animals.
Get creative and thrifty with materials to make windbreaks. Bales of hay or old tires stacked up can work great for a smaller windbreak. Using existing fence and zip-tying tarps to it is also a good option. For a more permanent solution, extra wood from your operation can build a slatted wall half circle windbreak. Half circle wind breaks can stop the wind from all direction except one. If wind typically comes from one direction in your location, this muight be a great option. If your herd moves between fields or shelters frequenty, portable windbreaks might be best for you.
No matter the number of animals or operation, it is important to protect them in winter. Thankfully, there are plenty of options that you can make to work for you.
Alkire, Deke. “Windbreaks Reduce Cattle Energy Demands.” Noble.org
Thomas, Heather Smith. “Wind Chill – Providing Windbreaks for Cattle Reduces Stress in the Herd.” Hereford.org