Shade offers plenty of value to cattle in the Fescue Belt says Eldon Cole, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist.
In research at the university’s Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon, shaded steers (550 lbs.) gained 0.2 lb./day more for 84 days than un–shaded steers. The trial was conducted using both endophyte-infected and endophyte-free fescue. The difference in gain increased up to 0.35 lb./day with steers grazing endophyte-infected pastures.
Cole says University of Kentucky (UK) researchers have also compared manmade shade with no shade in fescue pastures and fescue-alfalfa mixed fields. Their data indicated 0.89 lb./day more gain in steers with access to shade.
Though producers might typically consider manmade shade when there aren’t any trees, Cole points out, “Shade trees can present a problem since cattle traffic can kill them and the manure won’t be distributed around the pasture. Trees may also present a lightning risk.”
Shade economics obviously vary by operation. Cole offers these considerations:
• Pastures that have fescue toxicosis problems will definitely benefit from shade.
• Shade response will be greatest in mid-summer.
• Cattle breeds, colors and even individual genetic differences will give varying differences in response.