Connect with
our community:

Follow us on twitterJoin us on Twitter

Quick links:

Share the EXTRA

Bookmark and Share

Muddy Pens Decrease Gains

Extension feedlot specialist encourages producers to prepare for wet weather to help reduce the risks of muddy conditions.

Muddy steer

Click to enlarge

Livestock producers may not be able to eliminate all the stress placed on herds by Mother Nature, but if they want to maximize animal performance they should make management decisions to minimize animal exposure to mud and provide protection from adverse weather conditions.

Chris Reinhardt, extension feedlot specialist for Kansas State University (K-State), understands that part of raising cattle is dealing with the weather and encourages livestock producers to take precautions that reduce stress from muddy pen conditions.

“Rain, snow, ice and extreme temperatures are a part of life in Kansas,” Reinhardt said. “However, each of these factors can steal a measure of the animal’s performance as that animal moves outside of its comfort zone, called the thermal neutral zone.”

The thermal neutral zone for healthy cattle is 23° F to 77° F. When the temperature outside falls below or rises above the animal’s comfort zone, the body needs to produce more energy to stay cool or keep warm.

Feedlots and winter-feeding sites can quickly become muddy after receiving moisture. If cattle are too tightly confined and feeding grounds are not sufficiently spread out, even calving pastures can become riskily muddy.

Reason for concern

Reinhardt explained that producers should be concerned with the effects of mud in their pens because of four main reasons.

  1. 1. Slogging through a muddy pen increases the amount of energy cattle expend, thus reducing the amount of energy left for gain.
  2. 2. Mud on the hide reduces the insulation effects of the hair coat, increasing cold stress and reducing energy left for gain.
  3. 3. Muddy lots in a feedyard make lying down to rest uncomfortable, resulting in more time spent standing, increasing energy expenditure, and reducing energy left for gain.
  4. 4. Muddy hides reduce dressing percentage at the packing plant, causing an increase in processing costs.

“Under stress-free conditions, only about half of animals’ normal daily energy intake goes toward gain,” Reinhardt said. “All these increases in energy expenditures dramatically cut into what is left over for gain.”

The National Research Council (NRC) reported that mud 4 inches (in.) to 8 in. deep can reduce feed intake of animals by 5%-15%. When the temperature drops to between 21° F and 39° F, mud that is dewclaw deep has the potential for a 7% loss of gain and the percentage doubles when the mud reaches shin deep.

Prepare for mud

Reinhardt encourages producers to prepare for muddy conditions; even though they won’t eliminate the costs, proper planning can reduce costs. He suggests the following:

More information on the effect of mud and weather on cattle performance is available in How Feeding-Site Mud and Temperature Affect Animal Performance, K-State Research and Extension publication MF2673, available at county and district Extension offices and online at:

comment on this story







[Click here to go to the top of the page.]