Rain, Rain, Go Away…..Dealing With Mud

March 12th, 2011 by Kim

The pretty side of spring - calves & daffodils, but........

I hate mud!  March here in Clay Co. KY is generally a nice, dry month.  The rain stops, the sun comes out, winter’s mud dries up and there’s finally firm ground beneath our feet for a while.  The grass starts growing again and we can start planting early crops in the garden.  Then, in April the spring rains start & we get mud, round 2. 

....don't stand still tooo long, you may lose a boot!

But this year seems a bit different.  Here we are almost half way through March, with Winter & Spring still duking it out, one day the one winning & the next day the other, it’s raining & flooding and we’re in mud up to our gizzards…..and I HATE mud!

The steers come running through the mud for their breakfast.

But, I guess as long as we have winter & spring, we’ll have mud, too.  So we need to deal with it.  And one of the best ways to deal with mud is to try to prevent it from happening in the first place!  Unfortunately, we’re not doing too well with that here.  I know what we need to do, it’s just a matter of getting it done.  So, here are some ideas….and if you have any other good mud-busting strategies, please leave a comment & let us know about it.

Sangha may have the best idea....stay in the barn rafters, it's safe up here.

Preventing Mud

I think the best way to not turn your pasture into mud soup through late winter/spring is to not overstock.  If you have plenty of pasture with good grass coverage & only a few animals, you can manage to allow them access to the pasture without damaging it.  Otherwise, you need to keep them off the pasture & have a “sacrifice lot” to keep the animals in over winter/spring.  This is pretty much where we’re at.  We like to feed hay out in the pasture over winter, in different spots each day, to double as a pasture over-seeding plan, but there still comes a time when we have to close the pasture & keep them in the “swamp”….well, at least that’s what it looks like now.  We need to get the “swamp” turned back into a bearably decent sacrifice lot at least, a decent pasure paddock at best.  The main problem with it is drainage.  Drainage-expert/friend Steve is currently working on figuring out a solution to get this paddock draining properly so we don’t end up with standing water….and mud.

Hershey joins momma in the parlor for milking...and, no, it's not a kitty litter ad. I don't think kitty litter helps with mud, does it?

Another problem is areas where the cattle or horses stand or walk continually.  You know….the gates they stand there peering over, the shady trees they hang out under and the path they take every day.  Areas around water troughs & permanent feeders can get mucky, too.  A lot of these places can be stabilized with drain-rock or gravel, and keeping manure cleaned up can help as well.  Anywhere that you’ll be driving through with truck or tractor on a regular basis should definitely be gravelled also.  And, no, walking or standing on gravel will not hurt your horses’ or cows’ feet.  In fact, it’s actually beneficial, helping to keep their hooves self-trimmed the way God intended.

Ladybell is deciding that maybe this halter-thing isn't so bad after all.

Living With Spring Mud

Well, all that doesn’t change the fact that right now we have more mud than you can shake a stick at.  So, what do we do in the midst of it? 

Once haltered, Ladybell gets her daily bucket of grain & then some hand-grazing time.

The calving season has started, we’re milking again, and all the animals are anxious to get some green grass in their mouths.  At least the barns are a dry place to keep cows nearing calving, or to put them up for milking.  But I can’t keep everybody in a stall!  The good pasture paddocks are OFF LIMITS while we wait for things to dry out a bit & for the grass to get a good head-start growing.  Hay is fed in racks or on the highest, driest ground available.  When the cows come into the parlor each morning for their breakfast, they get groomed to remove mud & loose hair.  I also often hose off lower legs & feet to keep the mud from getting caked on too thick & make sure all is healthy underneath. 

Hershey gets some supervised exercise while momma grazes in the front yard.

Then, the thing the cows like best, we hand-graze.  Since the lawn grows out earlier than the pasture, because it wasn’t grazed down in the fall, it gives me the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with the girls that need it most.  Hand-grazing gets them out of the mud for some nice, nutririous fresh grass.  It’s a great way to get to really know your family cow…and for her to make friends with you & that halter, not to mention it’s just plain down relaxing.

So, those are some of the ways we’re dealing with our mud here at Hope Refuge Farm.  If you’re having mud problems too, I hope you found some helpful ideas.  If you have some other helpful ideas of your own, please share…..because I hate mud!

One Response to “Rain, Rain, Go Away…..Dealing With Mud”

  1. Susan Lea Says:

    No ideas–just sympathy! We got over 7″ in four days. The lower pasture is flooded, and the back pasture (half of which is a big hill) is too slippery to let the horses out. We’re keeping both horses, Sara and Siobhan in the barnyard, feeding them hay in a home-made manger and a hay net, which does the best job of keeping it off the muddy ground. Of course that isn’t an option for anyone with more than a few animals. This is our “sacrifice” lot, I guess, though we didn’t know the term. It gets to be a horrible, muddy mess with all this rain, but at least the animals can get into the barn and stay dry and have dry feet.

    On a couple of occasions, we’ve let the horses work off steam in the round pen next to the barnyard. I got tired of both mud and rocks in it, so last fall we raked up the rocks and dumped in about 15 loaders-full of mulch from a tree we had cut down and chipped. The footing is SO much better, and they take advantage of being able to run and buck without slipping.

    Yesterday I set up a small electric paddock with our new solar fence unit in a corner of the field Herb is in the process of fencing in–when it isn’t raining! One shock each, and the horses caught on. I didn’t give them enough room to get up a head of steam if they decided to run, but just enough to move around comfortably. They were thrilled to be grazing and really didn’t even try to run around. Poor Sara and Siobhan stood about 50 feet away in the barnyard and bawled their heads off. (They didn’t say if they were jealous–or missed their buddies.)

    When Herb does get this fence done, we want to portion the field off in electric paddocks for rotational grazing. I believe this will help keep the whole field from being trampled on, and I hope without room to start galloping, the animals won’t tear it up so much. I’ll share the results on my blog.

    I like your idea of hand-grazing, and I think I’ll try that with Siobhan. We both know how well it would work with Sara–ha! ha!

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