Official website of the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association

Tree shelter is important

Wink Sutton, New Zealand Tree Grower November 2011.

Farm foresters are aware of the importance of shelter on farms and it may seem inappropriate to raise the subject of shelter in this magazine. However some farms, perhaps many, still appear to provide inadequate animal shelter. Harry Bunn and Neil Barr were constant critics of this lack of shelter and claimed that farm owners had been falsely convinced that trees on farms resulted in a loss of productivity.

Several decades ago I remember seeing a short film produced by the NZFFA with sheep and cattle attempting to escape the heat of a summer sun by sheltering in the shade of the one tree in a paddock. A time-lapse sequence showed the animals moving to follow the tree’s shadow as the sun moved across the sky.

I also remember Peter Smail extolling the value of shelter during lambing when pregnant ewes were about to give birth they were transferred to the shelter in his plantations. Peter said that just before they were about to give birth ewes select the birthing site. If the weather then turned unfavourable between site selection and birth, the birth still occurred sometimes with disastrous consequences. Peter claimed that by birthing in the shelter of plantations he had greater lambing successes.

In the late 1950s I occasionally travelled by rail between Wellington and home near Hastings. The trip was unmemorable usually, but one incident left a lasting impression. It was a hot summer day and we were travelling through farmland in southern Hawke’s Bay. The young English couple opposite me became more and more agitated. They were very critical of the total absence of shelter on many of the farms.

As a nation we have not adequately addressed this shelter issue. With the rising importance of animal welfare in international trade we must do more about animal shelter. Adverse publicity from both our competitors and animal welfare organisations could have very serious consequences for New Zealand.


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