Winter is the time to be planting trees and shrubs on-farm for shade and shelter.
Will Halliday, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Senior Advisor on Biosecurity and Animal Welfare, suggests farmers considering a planting programme this winter contact their regional council or authority for advice on site selection and suitable tree and shrub options.
“What might be suitable in Northland, for example, may not be appropriate for more southern regions.”
Regional Councils might also have funding available to help with planting or fencing-off programmes.
Local nurseries are also a font of knowledge about the suitability of trees and shrubs for different climates, environments, sites, soil types and uses. New Zealand Farm Forestry Association also has valuable resources on its website.
When considering trees for shelter, think about the wind direction of both cold and desiccating winds.
Wind chill will increase the metabolic rate of livestock and when this is combined with pregnancy or lactation, feed demand will be increased significantly, which isn’t ideal in a year where feed supplies are limited, says Will.
“Having set areas where animals are protected from wind chill could be very valuable and in mid-summer, shelter trees will protect pasture from hot dry winds. Shelter belts will slow down the wind speed and can protect pasture and enhance pasture growth to quite a surprising distance.”
While it can be challenging to be thinking about shade in the middle of winter, Will says farmers will have a good idea of where on their farm shade trees would be beneficial. Providing good shade during the heat of summer will help reduce water demand by livestock.
“An ideal shade tree will have height and plenty of room underneath, so the shadow moves in line the sun, providing shade throughout the day.”
Again, local nurseries or regional authorities will be able to provide advice on suitable shade trees options for specific sites, says Will.
As well as providing shade, trees such as poplars and willows help stabilise soil and can be used as an emergency feed during feed shortages. Trees can also be of value for timber or firewood at the end of their lifetime.
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