Shel­ter plan will cut an­i­mal stress

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

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.

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