Trees: Your Long-Term, Low-Cost Solution

12-09-2016 in Green Farmstead Partner

While there’s no silver bullet to completely mitigate livestock odors or control snow deposition, there is one solution many Iowa farmers turn to as the next best alternative – trees!  A properly designed windbreak not only reduces the impact of winds and inclement weather, but can dissipate odors, shift snowfall and enhance farm aesthetics.

In terms of sustainability and cost-effectiveness, trees are a valuable long-term, low-cost investment for new livestock farms as well as existing sites. Once they are established, trees function as a dependable tool – safeguarding your farm and the environment 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

During the hot and humid summer months, windbreaks help change wind patterns to redirect livestock odors. Odorous gases are moved and mixed higher into the air, and are diluted as particles descend to the ground or onto other plant material.

Throughout the cold and harsh winter months, trees act as a natural barrier to prevent drifting around buildings, barns and driveways. When it comes to snow management, who wouldn’t love to trade their hours operating a snow plow or scoop shovel for a simple one-step solution?

The recent arrival of winter weather in Iowa provides the perfect opportunity for you to stay indoors and plan for a future windbreak on your livestock farm. Remember to keep the following considerations in mind as you design your site.

To achieve the best results, plant windbreaks on the north, west or northwest area of the site. Windbreaks in this location will protect your farm from harsh winter winds while also blocking odors carried by summer breezes. The east, south and southwest sides should be left open at ground level to allow breezes to cool curtain wall ventilated buildings during warmer months.

Finally, although a single-row windbreak can help reduce winter winds, the most effective windbreaks should have a minimum of three rows. Use a variety of fast-growing and slow-growing trees to establish lasting protection while also providing your farm with immediate visual and buffering benefits.

For tree planting assistance and to learn more about the Green Farmstead Partner Program, contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) at 1-800-932-2436 or visit

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist  

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