One of the most frustrating things to deal with in the spring is mud. It keeps us out of the fields and off the back roads, plus it makes your wife mad when you inevitably track on her floor. In addition, mud doesn’t only make cattle look messy, but can have several other negative effects on cattle health and performance. While it is a challenge, some steps can be taken to decrease the effect mud has on your livestock.
The first problem mud creates for cattle is it makes it harder to move around. While this may seem obvious, this means it takes more effort to get up to the bunk and eat, taking energy away from growth. This extra effort also suppresses feed intake. According to National Resource Council Nutrition Requirements, four to eight inches of mud can decrease feed intake by 5 to 15%.
Mud also decreases cattle’s ability to regulate their temperature as efficiently. Hair mats caused by mud decrease the insulation capability of the hair, leading to cattle having to consume more energy to stay warm. The combination of these two challenges leads to an increased cost of gain. University of Nebraska Extension research has shown that four inches of mud in 36 degree weather can increase the cost of gain by 23.5%.
So how can we counter this mucky menace? The best way to start by shaping the pens for adequate drainage in the summer, before the rain and snow occurs. This is a distinct challenge in East River South Dakota, where much of the state is as flat as a pool table, but it can be done. Building mounds that allow the cattle a dry place to lie down throughout the pen, with a slope that takes water in a single direction away from the feed bunks will go a long way. In hillier areas, creating the slope will be less of an issue, but keep in mind where the water is draining towards so it doesn’t conflict with your runoff management plan. Read more…