Consider windbreaks to shelter livestock
Established tree windbreaks sheltering beef and dairy cattle operations can save producers money on feed costs, weight loss and milk production during the winter months.
A heavy winter coat protects beef cattle until temperatures drop below 18 degrees Fahrenheit, but beyond that point, Bob Atchison with the Kansas Forest Service said the animals require additional feed to maintain body temperatures. The presence of a windbreak can help remedy this problem.
"A 25 mph wind at zero degrees Fahrenheit creates a windchill of 44 degrees below zero," said Atchison. "By contrast, a properly designed windbreak will reduce the same windchill to 15 degrees below zero."
Atchison said windbreaks can reduce the spike in energy requirements cattle need to maintain their body temperature during extreme cold weather. He cited Canadian researchers who found that cattle on winter range, in unprotected sites, required a 50 percent increase in feed for normal activities.
"A properly designed windbreak will reduce these needs by half," he said.
Windbreaks enable cattle to gain and maintain weight better as well. He also cited studies in Montana indicating that during mild winters, beef cattle sheltered by windbreaks gained an average of 34 to 35 pounds more than cattle in an open feedlot. During severe winters, cattle in feedlots protected from the wind maintained 10.6 more pounds than cattle in unprotected lots.
The Kansas Forest Service is now accepting tree orders from producers interested in establishing livestock windbreaks. Foresters also are available to assist with planning a tree planting. For more information, contact the Kansas Forest Service at 785-532-3300 or visit www.KansasForests.org.
Kansas cattle rancher uses windbreaks in his operation
A Kansas Forest Service video in the Faces of Forestry series features Steve Irsik, a cattle rancher and dairy producer from western Kansas, east of Garden City. Trees and shelterbelts are an important part of his operation. To view the YouTube video, go to http://bit.ly/SIXNpR.