Shelter plan will cut animal stress
It’s winter again, the time of year that is best for tree planting on farms. Using trees for stock shelter is one of the ways farmers can lessen the climatic stress animals feel during winter. Normally an animal living in its natural habitat would find its own shelter but farmed animals may not be provided with sufficient options, especially if they are in a field of grass surrounded only by a wire fence.
Planting a shelterbelt is the option open to some livestock farmers for reducing the adverse effects of wind. Artificial windbreaks also play a part in protecting livestock where cost allows and rapid protection is essential
When establishing a shelterbelt, careful consideration needs to be given to site selection and the tree species to be used.
An understanding of the terrain and local weather conditions is important, along with an appreciation of the interaction with livestock behaviour.
Strategic planting is likely to be more worthwhile than blanket planting and because of the long-term commitment, a careful decision should be made.
Besides protecting stock, the traditional view has been that the shelter-belts help to reduce evaporation of soil moisture and transpiration from the grass. Strong winds in particular enhance transpiration rates from the grass and, if the water absorption rate by the roots is lower than the transpiration rate, the plant develops an internal moisture deficit.
Once this deficit reaches a certain threshold, the plants appear to lose turbidity, photosynthesis is constrained and growth is curtailed.
Mechanical agitation of the grass by the wind is the more important factor in reducing grass growth.
The reduced growth rates were reflected in reduced dry weight, leaf area and height, but leaf area was much more sensitive to wind than growth of whole plant weight, which supports the concept that leaf cell expansion is specifically limited.
Wind can cause physical damage to grasses, leading to stunting or desiccation. In addition to environmental benefits such as erosion control and soil conservation, shelter can have complementary effects by achieving multiple goals for both the landowner and the environment.
Recent research reports reveal that sheltering and feeding ewes before lambing has a major impact on reducing lamb losses.
The reports also say that sheltering and feeding ewes two weeks before lambing has a bigger effect on lamb survival.
The types of species used in the shelterbelts will make a difference in the number of invertebrates.
Broadleaf shelter harbour more groundliving spiders than conifer shelter belts and there will be a greater variety of native species of spiders and beetles in shelter belts made up of native species.
These spiders and beetles can play an important role on pastoral farms by helping to reduce the numbers of pasture pests.
Shelter trees can be a haven for birds, give shelter for homes and buildings, stockyards, be aesthetically pleasing and increase the tree species in an area.