…on the farm…

cows thrive in the open…

This should be an article about animal-shelters, but the fact is that our animals prefer to stay out in the open as long as the weather permits. It is good to have shelter near by just in case the weather turns really bad, but they don't want to stay in for long no matter what.

In the winter when the weather around here can get really bad, with snow-storms and minus 20°C, it is near the hilltops we find our cows when it's near milking-time, and it may take quite a while to get them down from there. The colder and more windy it gets, the higher up they go – which may seem strange to some.

The simple fact is that the cold air falls down into the walleys, making it really cold down there. It is almost always a few degrees warmer on a low hilltop than in the more sheltered walley below, and there's less snow up there too which makes it easier for cattle to get around.

It is also easier to find a draft-free place behind a rock or something up there where the wind speeds up over the hilltop – creating small wind-free pockets for one or a few animals. Remember: wind and draft isn't the same, and while cows can tolorate lots of wind, they don't like cold draft anymore than we do.

Our hills are also partly covered with pinewoods, which keeps their paths open. That's also important to remember when trying to figure out why these animals do what they do. Other than that we just let them do what they want, since they always know better than we do.

We have these clusters of solid old pine, where herds 20 times larger then ours can find shelter no matter how tough the weather gets. The sloping ground channel rain-water away, and not too much snow gets down to the ground inside such a pine-cluster. A bed of pine needles is just fine for a cow.

simple and solid…

We have built some shelters, just to make sure the animals have alternatives no matter which way the wind blows and the rain and snow is pouring down. Cows find it pretty unpleasant to become wet when the temperature hovers around freezing, so that's when they make most use of our man-made shelters.

Having short way between the barn and the shelter, with a feed-station in between, also seems to suit them fine when there's a meter of snow on the ground and the wind keeps on piling up the snow so it covers their paths completely in hours.

We try to make these constructions as open, simple and solid as possible, since cattle need plenty of space to spread out on. Not all animals like to be too close to the others while resting, and especially the younger ones must feel that they can get away in case one of the older and bigger cows gets too near and threatens them.

and then there's the calves…

Sure, our calves have a shelter of their own, and although that's off limit for the cows they like to “lay around” on the road outside when the weather is nice and they're well fed and just waiting to get in for milking.

Calves need a better shelter than the cows, simply because they only have one. There's plenty of space in that building for the not more than half a dozen calves we have at any one time, and it is screened against wind from all directions. A thick straw-bed that gets renewed quite often, turns it into a safe and cozy place the calves can call home for most of their first year.

Our calves can go in and out as they please under normal conditions, and we serve their more solid meals – silage and hay – on the ground on the opposite side of the calf-pen. Milk and consentrates are served indoors or in the screened area just outside.

it works…

The combination of natural and man-made shelters seems to work quite well. The animals have options, and they are making choices based on conditions and moods and whatever.

We don't tell them much, as they know best what to do anyway. We only have to provide.

sincerely  georg; sign

Hageland 06.des.2007
last rev: 06.des.2007


There's a path in the snow towards the shelter, but I have no idea whether they're in there or not.
— Georg

Shelters don't come much simpler than this, but the cows don't mind and most of the materials come from our own woods.
— Georg