With the wild weather that can often occur here in the Ozarks, it’s imperative that livestock have some form of shelter or protection from the elements.
Not only is it good animal husbandry to give your stock some shelter from the weather, it can also be critical to their survival, especially in a geographical area that can incur ice and temperatures well below freezing and periods of drought that come with triple digit thermometer readings.
“If you have toxic tall fescue, then shade is essentially mandatory, because even low levels of toxicity will elevate the cattle’s temperature and make them seek shade or other means of cooling,” Dirk Philipp, associate Professor of Animal Science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said. “If you have non-toxic fescue, you will get away without providing shade in fall, winter and spring. But during summer, shade should be provided in some form. The temperatures in the Ozarks are just too high to rough it.”
Even during a season of mild weather, livestock will appreciate having shade, warmth and windbreaks. Here are a few things to consider when you construct your shelters.
Size and Detail: When you’re planning the construction of your livestock shelters, the classic picture of a big red barn with white trim and a weather vane will probably come to mind. Realistically, farm animals don’t often need anything quite so large and detailed – not to mention costly. A simpler, cheaper, run in shed style shelter will generally suffice. The size of the shelter will depend on the size of your animals; one to two horses can comfortably fit in a three sided 14-foot-by-14-foot shed, where as a herd of cows will need one big open floor plan barn or several small shelters out in the field. Hogs and sheep can bed down in a short shelter, with a ground to ceiling height of 4 to 5 feet. Shelters should be built with a sloped or pitched roof to facilitate rain and snow runoff. Livestock are more likely to utilize the shelter out in the field if it has a large doorway, or if one side is fully open, so as not to make them feel trapped.
Material and Construction: As far as materials for your livestock shelters go, you are limited only by your imagination. Some of the most commonly used materials are 2-by-4s and barn tin; other more creative options are pallets, PVC pipe and tarps, shipping containers and even straw bales. Whatever materials you choose, make sure that they are safe for your livestock and that you minimize strings, protruding hardware and sharp edges. The overall construction of your shelter will ultimately determine how long it will last; Greg Samuel, owner of Portable Livestock Shelters in Seymour, Mo., said “We screw everything together, this way after years of dragging (shelters) around, the screws will still be holding tight.”
Shelters don’t have to be fancy to provide a respite from the weather, especially when they are just seeking shade in the summer. “Our solution was to use moveable shade structures with simple cloth on top,” Phillips said. “These structures can be moved around to prevent complete loss of forage from hoof traffic.
Cleaning the Shelter: While it’s nobody’s favorite job, cleaning out livestock shelters of old bedding and manure is a highly-recommended practice – it helps stop the spread of disease, keeps pests to a minimum, and makes the farm look and smell better.
One of the easiest ways to design your shelter to be cleaned efficiently is to make sure it is portable.
“That way you can move the building and leave the manure there and clean it up once the shed has been moved,” Samuel advised.