Dairy farm productivity can be seriously positively impacted by the provision of shade through the erection of permanent steel shade sheds above free stalls or feed pads. These constructions provide excellent protection against solar radiation, but have to be well planned and constructed in order to minimise heat gain and encourage evaporative cooling.
In order to keep cows protected against heat, keep them eating happily and producing milk to their full potential, heat loss needs to be maximised, and the addition of fans and sprinklers may be necessary to assist in achieving this goal. The roof design and orientation of the structure will determine the amount of sunlight that will ultimately be blocked. A well designed steel shed for the provision of sun and heat protection for cows must provide sufficient standing and resting space, as well as hygienic, comfortable spaces for the cows to lie down. The surfaces for feed placement and standing areas have to be kept dry and clean, and the environment has to be safe in order to prevent injuries. Earthen feed pads have to be scraped daily to assist in managing mastitis risks.
A sufficient effluent system to deal with run-off and effluent is necessary to ensure that cow comfort and milk production are not in any way compromised.
Ideally, the structure needs to be erected close to the milking area/ dairy. This will enable staff members to monitor the herd during preparations for milking or the clean-up afterwards. The structure will need to be able to withstand extreme weather conditions, so prevailing winds, typical amounts of rainfall and sun exposure will have to be carefully considered.
The advantages of Steel Shade Sheds
Steel shade sheds are comparatively easy to set up, require relatively little maintenance and have a life span of approximately 25 years. This obviously makes steel shade sheds extremely cost-effective in the long run.
In addition to doubling up as feed-out facilities, they can be used as protective covers for pastures, preventing the soil being churned up as a result of prolonged periods of heavy rain.
It is possible to fit steel shade sheds with fans and sprinklers to assist in maximising heat loss through evaporative cooling. A well designed steel shade shed can be incorporated with loafing pads or converted into a free stall if so desired.
The growth cycle of parasites, such as cattle tick, for instance, can be broken with steel shade sheds, thereby reducing the need for the use of chemicals, which will ultimately be much better for the health of the cows.
Disadvantages of Steel Shade Sheds
The location of a steel shade shed may not prove an ideal solution when paddock rotation is a required necessity.
Depending on the amount of concrete required to support the weight of the structure, design and shape of roof required and the effluent management system to be installed, the initial capital outlay may also be quite significant. Although ultimately a cost-effective investment, this initial cost may prove to be a difficult hurdle to overcome.
The structure will also have to comply with the requirements set by local regulatory authorities. A solid roof structure is, for instance, likely to need a building permit from the local council.