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Managing Mud & Cattle

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April 18, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Taylor: Today, we're talking about managing mud and cattle. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dr. Brandi Karisch, Mississippi State University Extension Service Beef Cattle Specialist.

So Brandi, why should producers be concerned about muddy conditions at their operations?

Brandi Karisch: Well Amy, although we're really happy to see the spring and the warm-up this time of year, it also coincides with a pretty big increase in rainfall, and although we're thankful for that rainfall because it means the grass is going to grow, it also means that we're going to have to deal with some mud along with that. And most Mississippi producers are used to dealing with mud.

A couple things to pay attention to: Mud can have a big impact on the hair coat of cattle. So while we might still have some cool nights, the insulation value of that hair coat, if they're full of mud, is going to be decreased. Particularly, producers calving this time of year need to pay close attention to those newborn calves. They can get chilled by that mud, being trapped in it, especially during those cool nights. There'll be some bugs, some bacteria growing in that mud that can get those calves sick. And on top of that, those cows will lay down in that mud and they might get some mud on those udders and see some increase in problems with some udders or some problems with things like foot rot.

On top of that, we all know when we walk around in mud what it does to us walking through it, how much extra energy it takes to lift our feet out of that mud. Those cows experience the same thing. For example, whenever those cows are in just moderately muddy conditions, so we say four to eight inches of mud we call moderate, we can reduce their intake by up to 15% just because they're expending that much energy. And when we look at severe muddy conditions, we can reduce their intake by 30%.

Amy Taylor: Okay, so what are some steps that producers can take to manage the negative impacts of mud?

Brandi Karisch: Well, the first thing I'd suggest producers do is identify those high traffic areas on the farm where mud's going to be most likely, so places where cattle or vehicles go through on a frequent basis, so things like gates, water troughs, feeding areas, cattle handling facilities. High traffic areas in cattle handling facilities or feeding areas can be impacted or can be helped by putting in a ground covering such as concrete, or a GEOTEX fabric that can help with some of that mud.

One thing to pay attention to, even though we're coming out of the hay feeding season, our forage isn't quite up yet, so paying attention to where hay is fed is important. Pick frequent moving around of those hay feeding areas may be a good idea, but if that area becomes too large, then we might see more of a pasture impacted with mud, so it's important to pay attention to if you placed that hay feeding area near the gate at first, that place is going to become the most muddy first. So if we start farther away from that gate, we can progressively move closer to it as we near the end of the hay feeding season.

Water troughs are also something to pay attention to. Not only can we have mud coming in around those water sources, but we can also have cattle sloshing water out of those troughs as they drink, so that's something to consider as well.

Amy Taylor: And should producers be concerned about vehicle travel?

Brandi Karisch: As much as we can minimize vehicles traveling through those pastures during these muddy conditions, the better off they're going to be. On top of the obvious fact of getting those vehicles stuck in that mud and somebody having to push them out, we also need to think about our forages, our grass, that we rely so much on in beef cattle production, are subject to getting crushed or trampled by both cattle, or ATVs, or trucks whenever we have a lot of mud that's present. So take particular care about driving in those pastures during those muddy conditions.

Amy Taylor: And where can we go to get more information about managing mud on cattle operations?

Brandi Karisch: As always, they can visit with their local Extension agent, or they can visit our website,

Amy Taylor: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Dr. Brandi Karisch, Mississippi State University Extension Service Beef Cattle Specialist. I'm Amy Taylor, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Animal & Dairy Science

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