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Screens to keep cattle and other livestock cool

Large structure with screen top

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. David Witts is an asscociate member of the Texas Hereford Association and was an active member for many years. He has devoted his career to speaking for the agriculture and land owner’s rights. His acquaintance with Mr. John Verde prompted him to submit this article. Mr. Verde is a USPTA teaching pro and developed his product as a protection for tennis courts. The article tells how his proudct evolved from the tennis court to the livestock industry. Mr. Verde has donated the use of his Screen-O-Round material to the TJHA for use at Expo 94.

It seems the Lord can still use surprises to make the unknown known to people. Historic methods and humble beginnings revolutionize the complexity of a major problem with a simple idea. One day out of the blue, fortune smiled when a Dutch dairy farmer visited an American Arabian horse ranch. Klaas Talsma, owner of Talsma Dairy in Hico, Texas took a rare day off and visited a horse facility near Weatherford, Texas. With little knowledge of raising horses, Klaas was anxious to learn more about the equine operation, cost, daily upkeep, the training required, make a deal and be on his way. However, something strange in design, different in quality and working beyond belief, caught his eye and pricked his thinking about a major problem back at the dairy.

Predicting the Weather

Immediately Klaas began to inquire about a well secured, tightly woven windscreen neatly hung around the sides of a large barn. After learning how the horse farm had stumbled onto this product and hearing how successful it was in solving a year round weather problem, the dairyman’s wheels began to turn. Could this be the answer? Maybe this was the long needed solution to the most important element necessary to maintain consistent production from the cows – to be able to control Texas weather patterns. After several years of attempts to stop the north winds from racing through his washing pen, from tacking up tarps and canvas coverings, to nailing up sheets of tin, and plywood with gaps for needed circulation, nothing worked!

Answer on the Horizon

Predicting the weather may be the biggest problem-facing the ranching world today. Few things affect performance of livestock more than drastic climate changes. Why does the climate play such an important role in performance? The answer is plain and simple. Favorable conditions without question result in increased daily production, better feed efficiency, lower death rate, less stress and higher reproduction rates.

Sudden Shifts in Temperature cause Major Environmental Stress on Cattle

Livestock wind screens and barriers

John Verde, instructing a tennis clinic in Graham, Texas.

After securing the name of Dallas tennis pro, John Verde, Talsma looked up Strokemaster Windscreen Company and described his problem. Within days of Verde’s first trip ever to a dairy operation, displaying ingenuity and craftsmanship, he designed an attractive, durable and ventilated all-weather screen, and installed it on the north side of the washing pen. The design was a simple system Verde had used for years around tennis courts. These water repellent, custom sewn panels were manufactured with commercial webbing, large grommets, and hung with UV treated polypropylene rope. Talsma’s reaction was prompt and positive. My cows are protected and the barn looks great. The screens are easy to wash, cows don’t seem to notice it or chew on it and no blowing wind and rain. It works, it really works well.”

Since the January 1993 meeting of the tennis pro and the dairy farmer a brilliant solution to an aged-old problem was solved, and the rest is history. Ventilated weather protection with custom cut panels are now found on arenas, feedlots, residential barns, industrial sites, animal science centers, veterinarian facilities and kennels nationwide.

Protect livestock from heat and cold of winter chill

Screen-O-Round cools in the summer and eliminates wind chill in winter.

Weather protection using tennis court windscreens have made a profound impact on the multi-billion dollar United States livestock industry. Verde explains, “I’m tennis pro by vocation and a cowboy by invocation. I love to look the part – wearing jeans, boots and hat while heading out of town listening to country music and driving a used Ford pick-up truck.” The biggest joy is hearing stories of how the windscreens helped save a baby calf from the hot sun, made riding in a covered arena possible in blowing snow, kept stalls dry & clean in a down-pour or receiving a phone call saying “we got the screens up just in time – they did the job!”

Defining the Answer

Not only is Verde proud, but the many others who use the product are ecstatic over the results. Dr. Bill Turner of Texas A&M at College Station, Texas explains; “Once I saw the difference in the working environment at our extension facility in Amarillo, I immediately recognized a new product for our industry was found.”

Shade for feed barns

Large structure with screen top.

Jim Willoughby of Willoughby Livestock Company in Bowie, Texas is quite bold in his remarks. “I’ve been around the horse and beef world most of all my life and I can’t remember a quicker benefit from a product than when I installed the screens around my barn. In a matter of minutes, I had achieved results. It cools in the summer and eliminates the wind in the winter months.

According to Neal Gay, owner of the Mesquite Rodeo and Livestock Company, when asked if his name could be used for an article, he bluntly responded, “When cooler shade on the ranch can make my bulls buck better, you can put my name in the Wall Street Journal.”

Prevent algae growth in water tanks

Gary Green walking on top of his water tank weather screen.

On Bell Ranch in New Mexico, Gary Green explains we’ve used other brands of tarps over the years but the quality of the Strokemaster windscreens far exceeded our expectations. “The appearance was so strong and after a dare, in my boots, I walked on the top of our water tank weather screens.”

John South, Arizona rancher and professional cowboy said, “The all-season weather protection, provided by the screens has impressed me for several years… There are many advantages to both large and small animals using a ventilated fabric to create a comfortable environment. It’s on several areas of my place.”

At Tollcrest Dairy in Wheatland, California owner Sean Tollinear was proud to discuss his challenging idea. From hour one, we knew installing Strokemaster windscreens was an advantageous move for our business. Shading our individual hutch calves with additional ventilated screens reduced the temperature and loss to the hostile heat became non-existent.

John Duke at Imagine Thoroughbreds in Ocala, Florida claims he was “going nutty” calling around to find an “outfit” that understood his request for barn screens used to protect stalls from wind & rain. “Talking with John was a relief. That company knew exactly what I needed”.

In the Saddle/Riding Fast

Using screens to shade and protect calves and horses from wind, rain, and sun

Screens can be light weight and portable.

Despite centuries of trying, every kind of material, of mechanical and electrical machinery, of insulation barriers, no cost-effective product was ever developed to protect livestock from the heat and humidity of summer and the chill of water. Nature’s endless and formidable blows have always cut production yields, birth rates and profits.

Why couldn’t somebody figure out a way to protect livestock that’s simple, strong, durable, cheap and attractive? Something that’s not mechanical, won’t rust, lets in air but keeps wind out, can be installed permanently or skidded, can face the north in winter and the west in summer?

Understanding the markets, learning the lingo, becoming involved with the industry, playing a part in controlling the environment, scrambling to answer requests, driving the back roads, going from a small business operation to large scale productions are just some of the challenges. When cows choose comfort over eating, a rancher’s income in turn is affected. Credit belongs to the keen-eyed Dutch dairyman and John Verde’s tennis windscreens for making a difference in the health of livestock and livelihood of the rancher.

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