As Kansas snow melts, cattle are affected by muddy conditions

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News

MANHATTAN — After a sub-zero week in February, temperatures have climbed upward, melting the snow and causing mud. Ranchers, who had battled the frigid temperatures to save their calves, must now deal with their cattle roaming in the mud. 

According to Kansas State University Beef Cattle Institute veterinarians, mud can negatively impact cattle performance.  

Addressing this topic on a recent Cattle Chat podcast, BCI nutritionist Phillip Lancaster said that depending on the mud depth, cattle will consume less feed.

“If a cow is standing in 4 to 8 inches of mud, there can be up to a 15% decrease in her feed intake,” Lancaster said on the podcast. “If cattle actually lay in mud, where their haircoat is wet and matted down in cold weather, their maintenance requirements increase 20%.” 

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According to BCI director and veterinarian Brad White, when maintenance demands increase, cattle should be fed a diet that is energy and protein dense.  

Agricultural economist Dustin Pendell said on the podcast that building shelters can be costly. Such structures can also present additional risk of disease. 

“To reduce the chance for sickness, don’t let the cattle congregate in one area. Move the hay feeding location frequently, and keep it far away from the water source,” veterinarian Bob Larson said during the podcast. “By doing that, producers will minimize the accumulation of mud.” 

Lancaster also suggested using gravel for high traffic areas.  

“The rock will provide solid footing and keep the cattle from sinking so deep in the mud,” he said.  

Cattle eat hay after John Colle unrolled a round bale in a field north of Nickerson.