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Cool Cows and Climate Change - Information for Dairy Farmers
Shade structures
Case Study: Low-cost earthen feedpad with solid-roofed shade structure
Case Study: Low-cost feedpad with shade cloth structure
Case Study: Higher-cost concrete feedpad with solid-roofed shade structure
Sprinklers and fans
Case Study: Freestall shed evaporative cooling system



Case Study: Low-cost feedpad with shade cloth structure

Farmers’ name: Ian and Cathy

Facts about the feedpad:

  • Designed by: Ian and Cathy
  • Built by: Ian and Cathy, and family

Other cooling infrastructure on this farm:

  • Sprinklers in dairy yard

While the shade cloth over this feedpad is not wide enough to provide shade to cows all day, with some modification it may be a cost-effective cooling option for some farms.

  • Feedpad is 72 m long and runs east-west.
  • Shade cloth has a 90% solar rating (doubled over).
  • Feeding space is 0.7 m/cow, with the standing area concreted out to 3 m from the nib wall.
  • Drive alley is 5 m wide (two 1 m concrete strips with 3 m of gravel in between).
  • Height from ground to shade cloth is 4.4 m.

This structure cost about $50,000 to construct, including concrete feed alleys, water troughs and the shade cloth structure.

The feedpad is close to the dairy and cows are happy to move to the dairy and they arrive unstressed. The dairy yard is fitted with sprinklers and cows are sprinkled before milking.

Central drive alley with two concreted feed alleys. Each feed alley is

partially covered with shade cloth. Cows that can access the shade

on the southern side of the feedpad during the day stay more

comfortable than the cows exposed to sunlight on the northern

side of the pad.

Each side has an earthen loafing area.

What would you change?

Knowing what you know now...

  • Add another row of shade cloth to increase the area shaded per cow (especially on the northern side).
  • Plant trees around the perimeter of the loafing area, but fence off. The trees here have died, or are dying due to the concentration nutrients and compaction.
  • Increase the size of the loafing area on both sides of the feedpad to allow more space per cow and provide alternate areas to rotate cows during wet weather.
  • Improve the surface and drainage of the earthen loafing areas surrounding the feedpad for better mastitis risk management.
  • Consider adding a sprinkler system along the feed alley/drive alley partition above the cows’ heads to increase cooling capability.

Obviously, this type of structure is suited to a drier climate where the herd does not need protection from the rain – this farm is in south-east Queensland.

Australian Government - Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry