Mud can pose a difficult challenge for your farm when keeping livestock in Southwestern Washington during the fall, winter, and spring when there is heavy rainfall. The best management strategy for controlling mud is prevention. There are several management practices that will reduce muddy conditions in your livestock enclosures and pasture paddock areas.
WHAT CAUSES MUD?
Factors that create or enhance mud include organic matter in manure, barn and shelter roof runoff, poor soil infiltration, and poor pasture management. You may think that mud is an unavoidable part of owning horses on limited acreage. Although you may not be able to eliminate mud you can significantly reduce the amount of mud with proper maintenance.
BENEFITS TO MANAGING MUD
- Reduce any slick footing conditions for your livestock
- Reduce potential health conditions caused by mud conditions
- Reduce populations of insects that harbor bacteria, fungal organisms, and other pathogens
- Improve chore efficiency
- Reduce soil erosion to protect important habitat and water resources
- Reduce pathogens and nutrients from having a negative impact on habitat and water quality
- Improve water runoff management
- Improve livestock quality of life
To manage mud, we recommend determining a location with your an enclose livestock and manage where and when they can graze and how often. This will help you improve and protect your pasture fields as well as manage the distribution of mud and manure on your farm. When designing these systems, its important to consider drainage on roofs by attaching gutters and downspouts to divert away clean water and to create French drains when needed around the perimeter of the your enclosed area when further direction of water is needed.
WHAT IS A LIVESTOCK HEAVY USE AREA AND PADDOCK FOOTING?
IMPORTANCIA DEL USODE CORRALES DE GANADO
TIPS FOR INSTALLING HEAVY USE AREAS AND PADDOCK FOOTINGS
- Pick a dry, well drained area away from existing waterbodies, streams, ponded areas, and well heads.
- Locate areas for easy access to equipment, feeding areas, and manure storage area.
- Size the paddock footing area large enough for the appropriate required space for your livestock. A minimum recommended size is 400-600 square feet.
- Use the right footing material that is suitable for your soils and management style. If you are unsure of what footings to chose from, Pierce Conservation District's Farm Team can work with you to develop a plan that works for your operation.
- Install gutters and downspouts on all buildings and diver clean water away from heavy use areas to reduce mud and protect water quality.
- Fence the heavy use area to be able to manage your livestock's access to pasture and other grazed or exercise areas. Select fencing material that will work best for your livestock type and temperament.
- Size gates from heavy use areas to accommodate any equipment you plan to use to manage that area.
- Leave a grassed or vegetative buffer around the heavy use area and slightly grade surface for proper drainage.
- To reduce mud, remove manure from your livestock stalls and/or paddocks areas often. For certain footings, livestock manure will needed to be collected daily or weekly. In certain footings like hog fuel, the system you're using will accommodate some manure accumulation. Regularly picking up manure will extend the life of your paddock footings. The less bedding you use in your stalls, the small your livestock manure pile will be and the faster your livestock manure pile will break down.
WHAT CONSIDERATIONS ARE THERE WHEN SETTING UP LIVESTOCK HEAVY USE AREAS AND PADDOCK FOOTING?
MUD PREVENTION RESOURCES
For links to past recorded workshops on mud prevention, visit our Farm Events and Workshops page.
Heavy Use Areas - Better Ground publication explaining what a heavy use area, or livestock confinement area, is and considerations for setting up a heavy use area on your farm.
Confinement Areas - Better Ground publication explaining how to minimize mud and manage water in confinement areas or winter paddock areas.
Hog Fuel Installation - Pierce Conservation District publication describing how to install hog fuel for a heavy use area, or livestock confinement area. Hog fuel works best for cattle, and is often used for horses, sheep, and goats.
Hog Fuel and Woodchip Source List - Pierce Conservation District resource that lists out local businesses that sell/give away hog fuel and woodchips.
Heavy Use Area Engineered Design Example for Gravel-Geotextile Footing Material - Engineered design example that includes step-by-step instructions and material selection for installing gravel and geotextile for a footing material in your heavy use area, or livestock confinement area.
Heavy Use Area Footing Design Plans - Pierce Conservation District publication showcasing demonstrations of different footing material types and installation guidelines.
A Guide for Planning and Building Heavy Use Areas for Horses and Livestock - Spokane Conservation District publication that details the types of footing materials and installation of footing materials when designing a winter paddock or confinement area for your livestock. This publication also includes engineered design examples.
Roof Water Runoff - Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) publication that explains how to calculate and design gutters, downspouts, and French drains to divert clean water away from barns, shelters, and winter paddock or confinement areas. This publication includes engineered design examples.