Grains 2 Milk Logo
HomeAbout the programMedia centreSubscribeContact us
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



Shade structures

Permanent shade structures over feedpads (or freestalls) can make a big impact on overall farm productivity.

Shade provided here encourages cows to keep eating.

Permanent shade sheds are an investment that provides excellent protection from solar radiation – but they must be well designed and constructed.

Priorities for cooling cows

1. Use shade first

Minimise heat gain – block solar radiation

2. Use sprinklers and fans

Maximise heat loss – encourage evaporative cooling

Permanent shade sheds

An effectively designed and built shade shed provides:

  • sufficient room for resting and standing
  • comfortable, hygienic lying surfaces
  • clean, dry surfaces for standing and feed placement
  • a safe environment to minimise injury
  • smooth, quiet stock movement.

Note that the orientation and roof design of the shade structure will influence the amount of solar radiation that it can block.


  • Fast to set up, but with a long useful life – at least 25 years.
  • Doubles as a feedout facility,
  • Can be used to protect pastures and prevent soil pugging during prolonged periods of rainfall.
  • Can be used to break the growth cycle of parasites such as cattle tick and reduce the need for chemicals.
  • Can be fitted with evaporative cooling systems such as sprinklers and fans (see Section 3b).
  • Can be converted into a freestall or integrated with loafing pads if well designed.


  • Location on farm is not always ideal for paddock rotation.
  • High capital cost to provide shade. Cost depends on amount of concrete; type of roof, strength of structure required to support roof and the effluent management system.
  • Must have an effective system for handling effluent and run-off, otherwise cow comfort and production may be compromised.
  • Need to comply with regulatory authorities (e.g. local council building permit for solids roof structures).

Keys to success

  • MANAGEMENT IS easier if the shade structure is located close to the dairy, as staff can monitor the herd while preparing for milking or post-milking clean-up.
  • CONSIDER THE effects of prevailing winds, radiation from the sun and rainfall. Structures need to be able to withstand extreme weather conditions.
  • DAILY SCRAPING of earthen feedpad surfaces helps manage the risk of mastitis.
  • AN EFFECTIVE system for handling effluent and run-off.

Australian Government - Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry