Warm Cows & Cool Breezes

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Published on: Mar. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

barrier. The number of rows, the distance between trees and species composition affect windbreak density. By adjusting windbreak density, different wind flow patterns and areas of protection are established. Windbreak densities of 25 to 35 percent are most effective for an even distribution of snow across a crop field. A density of 40 to 60 percent provides the greatest area of protection and excellent soil erosion control. High densities of 60 to 80 percent are best for protecting farmsteads and livestock areas. Surprisingly, windbreaks offer greater wind speed reductions than a solid fence.


Windbreaks are most effective when oriented at right angles to the prevailing winds. The purpose of the windbreak will determine how it is designed. Farmsteads and feedlots typically need protection from cold winds and snow, which usually blow from the northwest in Missouri. A windbreak to protect livestock would be planted north and west of the feedlot. However, a crop field needing protection from hot summer winds would require the windbreak on the south and west, the direction of prevailing winds in summer.

Windbreaks may increase crop yields up to 20 percent. Their shelter slows hot summer winds, reducing burning and wilting of plants. Soil moisture is conserved, so the need to irrigate is decreased. With the slower winds, wind erosion is reduced, keeping the soil on your land.

A well-designed windbreak also can result in direct energy savings of 10 to 40 percent by reducing the loss of heat from homes and barns. More savings can result from livestock and crop field protection.

In the case of beef cattle, their heavy winter coat will provide protection against temperatures as low as 18 degrees. At temperatures below 18 degrees, an animal becomes stressed and requires additional feed to maintain its body temperature. With an air temperature of 0 degrees and a wind of 25 miles per hour, the wind chill is -44 degrees. The cow now needs 40 percent more feed to maintain itself, is less efficient at converting this feed into energy and is more susceptible to health problems. Although a windbreak can't raise the air temperature, it can cut the wind chill effect, resulting in warmer cows.

Windbreak Basics

  • Do not place windbreaks under utility lines or use species whose mature height will interfere with the lines.
  • When placing an opening through a windbreak, make openings at an angle to reduce loss of wind protection.
  • Use fences

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