Winter Guide to Windbreaks

01-09-2017 in Green Farmstead Partner

The holiday season may be over, but Old Man Winter remains. Tired of those inconvenient snow drifts piling up on your livestock farm? A properly planted windbreak can greatly reduce your time and effort spent on moving snow.

Two Approaches to Snow Control

When it comes to windbreaks, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all tree planting. The design, location and species incorporated in your windbreak will all depend on your specific needs and typical winter conditions.

In areas of high winds and blowing snow, windbreaks can be modified to do one of two things – either distribute the precipitation across a protected stretch of land, or deposit it in a designated area.

To accomplish the first approach, a low density windbreak is established to allow snow to fall evenly across the farm. Uniform distribution not only reduces wind erosion on snow-covered fields, but captures moisture for water infiltration into the soil.

The second snow control method calls for a dense, multiple row windbreak to pile snow in a restricted area. Designed as a living snow fence, this approach reduces the need to plow along driveways or around barns. Other benefits of a living snow fence include greater snow storage capacity, limited maintenance and a longer life span.

Designed with Livestock in Mind

In addition to maintaining cleared lanes and driveways, windbreaks can reduce the amount of snow piling up around stored hay and feed. But most importantly, windbreaks provide a safe haven for your livestock.

As you determine which windbreak design will best meet your goals, remember to consider how the tree planting will protect your farmsteads’ barns or feedlots and the livestock housed within those areas. Protection from strong winds and driving snow will help reduce animal stress, decrease feeding requirements and support animal health.

At the end of the day, windbreaks protect you, your farm and your livestock. Ready to start planning your tree planting? Contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers or one of our partner nursery and landscape professionals.

For more information, call 1-800-932-2436 or visit

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist  

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