Windbreaks are designed to deflect or lessen wind speeds to protect livestock or buildings. For people interested in protecting buildings, or using natural windbreaks like trees and shrubs, we recommend reading this paper written by University Nebraska researchers. This article will primarily focus on livestock windbreak, and how metal works as a material.
Metal fencing panels can offer long-term solutions for protecting livestock during cold months. As the temperature drops, livestock require more food to maintain their bodies. Providing a windbreak has shown to save feed costs by lowering livestock's required intake during colder periods. In addition to saving ranchers money on feed, windbreaks help minimize illness and protect young during calving seasons.
When choosing between a horizontal and vertical layout for your fencing panels, the key factor to think about is the desired protection.
If your focus is preventing snow accumulation and drifts, aligning your panels vertically with smaller gaps between panels is preferred.
If you are interested in primarily cutting down wind, choosing a horizontal layout with 20-30% gaps to prevent a low pressure build-up behind your panels is recommended.
For snow or wind protection, an effective windbreak will always need to account for the low pressure build up behind your panels, and allow for small amounts of air to pass through. This prevents an eddy from forming on the backside of your panels that may draw snow or wind back towards the panels, eliminating its effectiveness.
When choosing between creating a portable and static windbreak to protect livestock, the primary factors become ease-of-access and location. Static designed windbreaks will create a stronger, long-term solution for protecting calving areas and structures. They provide better stability and can double their usefulness for corralling and livestock enclosures.
Portable windbreaks are normally created using chains of windbreak panels mounted to steel piping and sometimes used in conjunction with a portable base similar to a trailer. These allow ranchers to quickly alternate location and direction based on incoming weather patterns. An additional benefit to portable windbreaks allows ranchers to relocate livestock to fresh areas and allow the damaged soil to regenerate in previously used areas. This helps maintain a healthy herd and prevent illness.
When designing a layout for windbreaks, you must first decide on the order of protection you would like to achieve. Will snow or wind be your priority? Each region often recommends a specific layout for their windbreaks, and some counties even offer tax credits or assisted financing based on the design you choose.
For a wide range of protection, a half-circle design will protect cattle in a region with varying directions of weather. This is made easier to achieve through portable windbreaks.
A traditional style of windbreak is the "L" layout, allowing a wide area of access and decent coverage against winds and snow from a primary direction. For regions with quickly changing weather, this is not a recommended design, although due to accessible factors, it is a popular choice.
In regions where the wind direction is fairly consistent, a "wide v" layout is usually recommended by experts. This layout offers great protection in a single direction from both wind and snow, and still maintain easy access for ranchers.
To learn more about what works effectively in your area, please contact your local agricultural resources.