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Protection for livestock from the frigid wind

Shelter for livestock during the winter months can influence the success of calving and a livestock operation.

Ashley Wolff 2023.jpg
Ashley Wolff
Contributed / NDSU Extension
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We all are very familiar with the saying, “It wouldn’t be so bad out today if it wasn’t for the wind!” With the frigid temps in addition to the wind that we all loathe, it is more important to know the benefits of an efficient wind break for your livestock.

Windbreaks play an important role in the protection of young animals and in areas with cold northerly winds during the winter and early spring. Blocking the wind in the winter lowers animal stress, improves animal health, and increases feeding efficiency. They also help reduce visual impacts, noise and odors from livestock operations.

Shelter for livestock during the winter months can influence the success of calving and a livestock operation. Installing a windbreak needs to come with a specific end goal in mind. The windbreak will only be as good as the design and using the wrong design can cause more harm than good. According to Brad Schick, Nebraska Extension educator, when temperatures drop below 18 degrees Fahrenheit, cattle begin to experience cold stress, even with their heavy winter hair coat, and feed intake will need to increase to maintain a suitable body temperature. Calving success can increase by 2% behind a windbreak. In Montana feedlots during severe winters, cattle behind windbreaks gained 10.6 pounds more than cattle that did not have windbreaks.

There are many types of windbreaks to think about before putting your plan into place. Some of these include solid (non-porous) windbreaks, porous windbreaks and temporary or portable windbreaks. The following few guidelines will help you construct a successful windbreak for your operation following the temporary/portable windbreaks:

  • Allocate 25 square feet of protection per cow or 1 foot of fence length per cow. 
  • A windbreak fence should be at least 10 feet tall. This will provide 100 feet of protection behind the fence. A higher fence can be built, and effective windbreak distance (and shade) increased. 
  • The windbreak fence needs to be porous, meaning that some air should be able to flow through the windbreak fence. With a solid fence made of something like plywood, the wind will go up and over and then dip right back down again.

Overall, with the proper knowledge on how to plan a successful windbreak you can reduce cold stress in cattle. This then helps the production of your cattle and feeding cost. There is a vast amount of knowledge pertaining to how to plan and construct a successful windbreak.
For more information on this topic, you can contact Ashley Wolff, NDSU ANR Extension agent in Stutsman County, at (701) 252-9030 or Ashley.n.wolff@ndsu.edu .

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