7 Tips To Minimize Winter Mud

Mud is one of the costliest weather hazards. Performance wrecks can quickly develop with long strings of wet weather patterns. The rain-snowfreeze-thaw-repeat winter weather can turn pens into a muddy mess, and the lack of warm days to help dry pens can make mud linger for weeks or even months, depending on your location.

According to the University of Wisconsin Extension, cattle make fewer trips to the feedbunk during muddy conditions which results in lower feed intake. Cattle utilize more energy slogging through the mud to reach the feedbunk. Muddy conditions can increase energy requirements by 10 percent. Wet cattle in cold weather need to metabolize more energy to stay warm, also resulting in reduced growth and production.

There are various ways to help runoff and minimize mud. First and foremost, keeping pens clean of manure and old feed helps reduce winter slop in pens. Dr. Terry Mader, Emeriti Beef Specialist, University of Nebraska, explained that undigested material has a large water holding capacity, significantly contributing to the mud, not allowing surfaces to dry as fast as they could.

He offered these tips when using mounds to give cattle a place to rest out of the mud.

1. In smaller pens, incorporate most of the lot in the mounds and valleys.

2. Ideally a 3 to 5% slope (away from feed bunks) should be maintained in the pen, with the mound on the center-line of the pen, perpendicular to the high side of the pen and parallel to the direction of slope.

3. Mounds should have valleys on both sides, with the valley running between the fence and the mound.

4. Fence lines, which are parallel to the mounds, should also be elevated to allow all water to drain to the valleys and to the back of the pen.

5. In old lots, mounds can be built from a mixture of manure and dirt.

6. Locate the debris basins for collecting run-off outside the pen.

7. Keep the back of the pen  clean and open to allow pen drainage to discharge directly into debris basins.

Most pen surfaces, including mounds, will need reshaping and soil added each year. Mader encouraged concrete pads to be 8 to 16 feet wide so that the entire animal can stand on the pad. His observations said concrete pads of sufficient size will eliminate much of the competition associated with feeding areas when mud becomes a problem and good feeding spaces are scarce.
“Mud tends to accumulate around feeding and watering places due to the soil being worked away while cattle are in these areas, leaving low spots,” he said. “Urine and fecal deposits also tend to be concentrated in these areas adding to the mud and moisture problems.”

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