Mud Management

February 14, 2023

Reid Miller
Area Livestock & Forages Agent

muddy pastureRainfall has been a big topic of conversation over the last year. Six months ago, we would have taken any drop we could get. Now, it’s a much different story. With all this rain and feeding hay comes mud….and lots of it. Too much mud can drastically affect cattle performance and pasture conditions. A study from the University of Nebraska gives us a range for loss of gain due to mud from 7% at dewclaw deep to 35% at belly deep with shin deep coming in at 14%. So how do we manage against this?

There is no silver bullet, but here are some tips to help you mitigate mud accumulation on your operation:

  1. Choose your feeding areas wisely. Feed hay in pastures that are well drained (higher ground), and maybe a pasture that could use a fertility boost. Waste hay and manure can provide needed fertility for the upcoming growing season (mostly beneficial for summer grasses). Updated soil tests can help with proper feeding placement. This works best in a temporary situation where the animals are not there long enough to dismantle the soil structure. Some type of drag to help evenly distribute manure and hay can help as well.
  2. Rotate between multiple feeding or sacrifice areas if possible. If one area begins to have an excess of mud, give it a rest, and use a different area for a while. Temporary fencing can help for those with electric fence.
  3. Avoid feeding near streams, ponds, or other water sources to prevent contamination and added potential for a muddy situation. Also, while feeding on a slope or hill can assist with drainage, consider the effects of runoff.
  4. For high traffic or heavy use areas such as dirt roads, feed bunks, water troughs, and hay storage, it may be worth installing either concrete or packed gravel. Your local NRCS office should have information about their EQIP programs that can help with these issues.


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