By Karen Johnson, University of Minnesota Extension Educator:
The snow in the area is slowly starting to melt. County roads are difficult to navigate as the frost leaves the ground. This begs the question: what have you done to prepare for the muddy situation that comes with spring? When answering this question, you must think about both the maintenance and care of your yard but also the areas where your animals spend the most time.
When thinking about the yard or more specifically the roads used to get in and around our farms, we need to identify the areas that give us trouble every year. Some like to have additional gravel on hand to make that area of the road passable during that time. Others choose to use alternative routes; staying off of select areas until the ground is safe to travel on without damaging the integrity of the road. If you have issues with the maintenance of the roads in your yard, reevaluate the grade and drainage system to get the water to move away more efficiently.
Another concept to think about is where you have piled your snow this winter. Is it going to add to the potential problems in your yard, dry lots or manure storage? Take time to think about how water drains away from your farm. Do you need to consider moving some snow now so additional water doesn’t run into dry lots, buildings or even your manure piles? Please be careful with snow piles in and around manure storage. As the snow melts, you will experience runoff issues. Follow all state and local codes for manure management.
All of us have experienced the extra energy it takes to navigate walking through mud. Some may have lost a boot or two in this situation! Animals experience the same situation when living in muddy lots that must be walked through to get to water, feed and dry places to lie down. Minimizing this energy use is vital to maintain the desired feed intake and overall health of our animals. In fact, in high mud situations, animals tend to eat fewer, larger meals that can lead to other more severe health issues. Not to mention, extended conditions where the animal's feet are in wet conditions can lead to lameness.
Management of mud is difficult. Being proactive to establish designated areas for animals to live during this time would be helpful. If areas of concrete are not available, constructing high-traffic pads with geotextile fabric and other materials is the best way to keep areas well drained during muddy seasons. Similar to roads, a short-term solution in dry lots is to add gravel or sand to provide a solid area for animals to be out of the mud. If a designated area is not possible on your property, consider moving animals to areas that are known to drain well. Always provide easy access to the three essentials of food, water and shelter with deep, dry bedding.
Are you prepared for snow melt and mud season? Now is the time to take preventive action to manage mud on your farm. For questions or other suggestions, feel free to contact Karen Johnson, UMN Extension Educator- Livestock at 320-484-4303 or email@example.com