With temperatures in the triple digits over a large portion of the country, it's a good time to check your shade structures.

Properly constructed shade structures can reduce heat stress and help heifers maintain the growth rates and reproductive performance that are an essential part of DCHA's Gold Standards II.

Structures should be oriented north to south for several reasons. As the sun moves across the sky, the shaded area will move and heifers will follow. The area left behind is exposed to sunlight and given an opportunity to dry. If the pen has adequate drainage, the north to south orientation helps prevent mud holes beneath the shade. Feed bunks are typically oriented north to south as well, which allows the shade structure to be arranged parallel to feed.

A longer, single shade structure works better than two or more shorter structures. When multiple shade structures are available, heifers tend to congregate in one. This concentrates the buildup of manure, which can be problematic if solar radiation is not adequate to dry the surface.

It's also a good idea to do a maintenance check on your existing structures.

  • Shade cloth should always be kept tight so it will not be damaged by wind.
  • Replace the cloth when it has deteriorated due to environmental conditions.
  • Maintenance coatings may need to be replaced on the structural steel components.
  • Portable structures should be moved periodically to prevent destruction of vegetation in the immediate area.

For more information on shade structures, try these links:

Shade material evaluation using a cattle response model and meteorological instrumentation - U.S. National Library of Medicine (PubMed.gov)

Source: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association