Every farmer knows that cold animals eat more and fatten less: "A cold beast is a skinny beast." Unlike sheep, most cattle do not have warm, waterproof coats and need a warm and dry place in which to shelter if they are to do well.
In the High Weald, open-fronted sheds provided shelter for cattle in winter. These "shelter sheds" - best placed facing south - were arranged around a yard, together with other buildings. The sheds usually contained feeding racks but the cattle were not tethered - as they were in some other forms of cow house. The agricultural improvements of the 18th century emphasised the importance of farmyard manure to maintain the fertility of the soil: when cattle were kept in yards, their manure was easily collected.
Straw was taken from the barn to cattle yards and stables to be used as bedding for livestock. The resulting manure was then forked into carts and returned to fertilise the surrounding farmland. Ancillary buildings developed within or around these yards. These, and are usually accompanied by cow sheds and/or a stable. Buildings for cattle faced onto or were sited within these yards. These mostly comprised open-fronted shelter sheds but cow houses with doors along one side are also present: the latter can be difficult to differentiate from stables. Internal cattle yards typically face south and east to capture sun and light, the openings being concentrated on the yard sides of the buildings.