According to Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension, shade for beef cattle in southwest Missouri is vitally important and even helpful.
Research findings on cattle and shade, including tests in Missouri and Arkansas, confirm that natural shade from trees gave better animal performance than shade from constructed shades.
"Twenty-five square feet per adult cow is a bare minimum for shade space with 30 to 40 feet preferred to prevent crowding and poor air movement," said Cole.
Research also shows that dark haired and heavier coated cattle benefit from shade more than those with lighter coats.
"Bull fertility appears to drop in hot weather so shade may also be of some benefit if you're in the midst of the breeding season," said Cole.
It is also important to know that some breeds, such as the Brahman and Brahman crosses, tolerate the heat better than others. Likewise, some animals within a breed handle heat better than others.
"Slick, short-haired cattle grazing warm season grasses will suffer less production loss than those on endophyte infected fescue. Fall-calving cows tend to be more tolerant of the heat than spring-calvers. Heavy cattle traffic around trees can kill trees and may result in poor manure distribution, so manage accordingly," said Cole.
In recent years, MU researchers have also found that access to shade improves weight gains for calves. Reducing heat stress also significantly improves pregnancy rates.