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Helping Cattle Avoid Winter Mud Problems

During wintertime, mud on a farm is inevitable and can cause a plethora of problems the longer it is around. From pasture issues to health problems with your cattle, mud can become a disaster. With some helpful tips, you can better preserve the condition of your pasture and make sure your bovine friends stay in perfect health through the winter months.

Bacteria And Mud Go Hand In Hand

Over-trafficking at feed areas in your pasture causes mud to form, which can be a breeding ground for thrush, a build-up of yeast in warm, wet conditions. When left alone, the yeast will accumulate inside the hooves, working its way into the grooves and hard-to-reach places. If left untreated, this could subsequently lead to foot-rot or hoof-rot when bacteria and yeast proliferate inside the hoof, causing tissue breakdown and even lameness. Keep the hooves of your cattle trimmed and scraped free of any debris or lingering mud that might have become compacted. If a red scrape or tissue breakdown is spotted, treat it immediately and move the cow to an isolated area while healing. A healthy diet with additional supplements and vitamins can give them plenty of immune support, which can help fight off any diseases or sicknesses that could be living in the mud.

Mud Can Stop A Cow In Its Tracks

Weight gain and productivity can be greatly affected by mud accumulation. Walking through mud uses more energy which should increase their food consumption; however, the more effort it requires to reach the feeding area, the less your cattle are likely to consume. Studies have shown if mud is four to eight inches deep, dry intake for cattle decreases by as much as 15%. If the level of mud increases up to a foot, dry intake will decrease up to 30%. This can lead to weight loss, depletion of vitamins and minerals, and low reproductive performance.

How To Solve A Muddy Problem

Ideally, building a concrete feeding area or getting your cattle out of the mud completely is the best solution. This can be expensive and is not always an option for your herd. For that reason, here are some alternatives to decrease your mud accumulation and increase productivity.

  • Rotate feeding areas – If you can relocate your feed areas try moving them around the pasture. This causes foot traffic to decrease in certain areas as well as tractor tracks and will allow mud to dry up.
  • Apply sand and/or gravel to the feeding area – If the feeding area can not be moved, then try packing sand or gravel on top of the mud. This will dry up existing moisture and help maintain moisture levels.
  • Feed at the fence – Feeding troughs that hang on the side of a fence can be an ideal way to keep the excess mud down in your pasture. It also allows for an easier way to move the feed around, keeps tractors on the outside of the fence, and keeps the cattle on the outskirts of the field.
  • Bed your cattle – This just means getting your cattle to high ground. Putting down bedding such as soybean stubble, cornstalk, straw, and other resources like this can help build up higher ground. Be careful, as this can result in more manure which will need to be cleaned.

Ultimately, mud is a fact of life on the farm, and there is no complete fix for getting rid of it, but staying on top of the problem can help reduce sickness and maintain efficiency throughout the winter months.

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