Soft-roof Shade Structures

Minimising heat gain using shade should be the first priority for farmers hoping to keep their cows cool.

There are two main options for providing shade in the dairy yard and feed pads. The cheapest is shade cloth and if well constructed and maintained it can have a lifespan of at least 10 years.

On the other hand, solid-roofed shade structures are more expensive to build, but last much longer. If paired with sprinklers and air movement at milking time, shade at the dairy yard is particularly effective in cooling cows.

If the cow's skin is wet, air movement enhances cooling. It also allows for faster milk let down and more incentive for the herd to walk to the dairy. Shade at feeding areas will help to maintain dry matter intake during hot periods.


  • Shade cloth is porous, so heat evaporated from cows can vent through it.
  • The small amount of radiation that penetrates through the shade cloth ensures the concrete surface regularly dries out, which prevents mould / bacteria from establishing on the concrete and reduces risk of the cows slipping.
  • Can be manufactured off-site then installed in a day.
  • Can be removed in cooler months.
  • In most council areas no planning permit is required, as shade cloth is not considered a solid roof structure.


  • Can be affected by hail damage and machinery exhausts.
  • Shorter lifespan compared to a solid-roofed structure.
  • If not well-designed and constructed, shade cloth can rip in high wind.

keys to success

  • SEEK A PROFESSIONAL for advice from a registered engineer and/or builder.
  • USE SHADE cloth with a minimum solar rating of 80%, minimum 300 GSM (gram per square metre), and at least a 10-year warranty against UV degradation. Green or black material is preferred.
  • APPLY TENSION sufficient enough to shade cloth to prevent damage during windy conditions. Monitor tension regularly, especially after strong winds.
  • 3.6 m MINIMUM HEIGHT should be (ideally 4 m) to allow for adequate airflow under the structure, effective use of sprinklers and fans, and good machinery access.
  • A PITCHED ROOF IS BETTER than a flat roof as it enhances convective air movement.
  • SUPPORT POSTS used should be structural grade steel. They should be located outside the dairy yard to prevent contact with manure and water, and so they don’t interfere with yard washing.
  • CURE DEEP FOOTINGS for an extended period (at least 2-3 weeks) before bearing any load.

Shade damage

Damage to shade cloth caused by tractor exhaust. This shade cloth structure is only 3.5 m high. Shade structures should be ideally at least 4m.


Shade damage with spring

Damage to shade cloth caused by poor maintenance. Ensure that springs that become detached are re-attached as soon as possible.