Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

Trudging through mud that’s only dew claw deep can

reduce animal performance by as much as 7%

As most of Ohio quickly approaches the record for the wettest year in history, cattlemen continue to deal with the ramifications caused when it gets wet in February, stays wet throughout the spring, and summer, and continues wet into winter. The result is more than just a forage quality issue . . . it results in MUD! Whatever happened to the adage, “One extreme follows another.” We’ve certainly got to be due for a stretch of “extremely dry!”

While mud is, at best, an inconvenience when it comes to managing most any aspect of a farm – especially a beef cattle farm – it also can easily evolve into a livestock health and nutrition issue. In an article on Feedlot Mud Management that OSU Extension Specialist Steve Boyles published here a few years ago he suggests that mud or manure that’s only dew claw deep in a feedlot situation reduces animal performance by 7%. That reduction in performance escalates to 28% when the mud and manure get hock deep.

Imagine how much more energy a brood cow is burning these days if she’s walking through similar conditions to get to feed. Compound that with feed quality that may not be up to the par we’ve had in the past and concerns for the brood cow escalate as we’re into or quickly approaching the third trimester of gestation. Beyond simple body condition concerns, we were reminded last spring by Calrla Huston, DVM from the Mississippi State University of Veterinary Medicine, in her article Colostrum and the Newborn Calf that good nutrition is necessary for the dam to produce high-quality colostrum. In another recent article, Colostrum is the Key, John Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator further suggests the importance of colostrum quality. The “good nutrition” that’s discussed as a requirement for providing a calf adequate amounts of high quality colostrum includes the need for the cow to be able to conveniently get to the feed bunk or bale ring in order to actually be consuming an adequate volume of nutrition. This, without burning unnecessary calories fighting her way through the mud.

There’s no easy answer or short term, quick fix for dealing with the challenges mud has offered us this year. However, as a refresher review one of more of these articles for some ideas that might be implemented now, or in the future.

Managing Mud on Cattle Farms

Winter Feeding Means More Mud

Options for Managing Mud in Pastures This Winter

Managing Mud