|This barn in Spokane, Washington suffers an annual muddy season. (Photo: |
In many places in the United States, and in the world, there is a muddy season. In some places this occurs in Spring, and in others Winter, or it can occur following hurricanes or floods. In some places this can be an annual issue. In forested regions this can be less of an issue because the excess water of a rainy season can be absorbed by trees. Conversely, when there has been timbering or desertification, or any other disruption of vegetation or soil, flooding and the following muddy season can be much worse. Mud can actually be dangerous to animals and to human beings. Large amounts of mud can result in unstable ground and an animal or human being can actually sink and become stuck When this farm was new and the grasses and shrubs had not yet established themselves, I once sank up to my thigh in one area. Fortunately, I stopped moving and my husband helped me to get out. Usually, mud is simply a terrible annoyance for human beings who need vinyl or latex boots which need to be removed upon entering the house. Many people who live in urban or suburban areas are pretty well shielded from the muddy season and so an urban dwellers shoes tend to look different from many of the shoes and boots in my own collection. I do have some "grown-up lady" shoes, but most importantly I have a series of boots which get me through the seasons. I have a pair of tall vinyl boots which are ideal for deep mud, standing muddy water, and the occasional floating horse manure. I have an ankle height pair of good grip shoes which I consider my muck boots. I wear these many times while scooping manure into a wheelbarrow which I then run to a place at the side of the forest where there is a large composting pile. I have two pairs of leather sneaker style shoes which I use for working with the horses when it's dry out. These are by far the most comfortable. I also have one pair of steel toed muck boots which I have never worn. I bought them originally thinking that I was being smart about protecting my toes from perhaps a careless horse. Since then, I rethought that a horse coming down on a shoed toe might break it, but that a steel toe might cut off my toe entirely should a horse inadvertently jump on it.
Mud isn't merely an inconvenience to livestock. It's also a general hazard. First of all, it's easier for a trotting horse to slip injure a leg, and potentially fracture one, for which he would be euthanized. Secondly, manure and urine can become mixed into mud and this can make it more difficult to remove from the animals area. This can attract more flies, and then you potentially have more disease. This is more easily said than done sometimes because a thousand pound horse can generate as much as 55 pounds of actual manure, and the pine shaving bedding adds even more to the pile. Miniature horses create less, but not as much less manure as you might at first think. Surviving mud with livestock is as simple as doing some very important things. Mud also creates a soup of bacteria, viruses and some nasty fungi. Many fungal infections which can be resistant to treatment can become established when an animal is exposed to a large amount of mud over a period of time. In addition, mud is very much an astringent. Too much water or mud that is not removed from a horses hooves can not only lead to a fungal infection, but can also lead to cracking.
|muddy hooves (photo: blog.easycareinc.com )|
1. Before you get the animals you are going to have, look up the recommended size for grazing areas. An alpaca might need 25 square feet for each animal whereas a Belgian horse could need 150 square feet for normal storage. Don't overpopulate your fields as it not only will decimate the grass you have, but it will be much more prone to being tuned into a mud patch by heavy rains and animals treading it into a marshland. Too many animals in one space not only increases the potential for disease between them, and increases erosion in your fields, but it heightens possessiveness and aggression within the animals themselves.
2. Regularly remove stool and urine saturated pine shavings or urine saturated hay. I do this twice a day.
3. If possible, prepare a couple of different grazing sites for your animals. This way when a particular shed row or region is muddy and marshy your animals can have a vacation from that area, and you can too !
4. Set up a compost pile. Many farms compost different species manure separately. We do this because some people want horse manure for their vegetable garden. Others want alpaca stool composted. A few want chicken manure, but be careful because chicken manure needs to be fully composted before being used for gardens as it's so high in nitrogen that it can burn grass and shrubbery. Well composted manure can be sold for a pretty substantial chunk of change depending upon where you are located.
5. If you have horses and rain is coming, and you anticipate mud, ask your farrier if he recommends using a water resistant hoof dressing. Some hoof dressings can easily be painted upon the outside of a standing horses hooves helping to create a water seal and helping to limit drying, cracking and perhaps some fungal infections. Ask him if he recommends the painting of an anti-fungal preparation on the underside of your horses hooves. This simple action can be the difference between needing to treat often for fungal infections, or simply doing this brief action in prevention of hoof problems. In horses, prevention goes a very long way.
6. Once you've done all the mud preventive strategies above, if you still have a very muddy area, near or outside a stall or a barn perhaps, then you may wish to consider having gravel or a pile of pine shavings delivered there to help to create a more stable spot for the animals, and to facilitate drainage from that area.
7. Many people do not place gutters on barns when this is the very place you might need them most !
Our barn gutters did not cost much to have installed, but they make a big difference. Gutters need occasional maintenance too. Make sure they are maintained and repaired properly. One year an ice storm bent the gutters on one side of the barn and they tend to drain differently than they did. A thirty foot by thirty foot barn can produce almost 600 gallons of water for every inch of rain, so gutters are very important.
8. Once you have gutter downspouts consider salvaging the water off your barn roof. Sometimes this simply keeps your closest areas to the barn from becoming a mudpatch. Other times this can allow you to retain and use this water for plants, or even when filtered for animals in emergencies. (Check your local laws. In Colorado, collecting roof water is illegal, as they are so desperate for water, they need it all to return to the ground and rechange the meager aquifers.)
9. Having a contractor or your husband if he is handy, place a concrete pad in key areas can be a very valuable strategy. We have concrete floors in our horse stalls, and concrete pads inside our kennel "rooms".
Once, in another property we had, we had a concrete pad where we placed a shed for our rabbit hutch. The concrete pad went a long way to keeping the area cleaner and odor free.
10. I mentioned earlier that the removal of trees for the building of homes or farm buildings is a factor in increasing the mud in the regions nearest your animals. Since trees absorb huge amounts of water, you might consider landscaping with trees. Select your trees carefully for your area, and also select trees that might not mind absorbing some water for you. Select their spots carefully not too close to foundations, and perhaps just outside a fence area. These will also provide a little shade for your animals. In July, in many areas, small trees which may grow quickly are forty percent off the normal price. Make sure that the trees you plant are safe near your animals. Pines should not be used near alpacas for example. When a lactating alpaca eats pine needles, it radically decreases her milk, for example.
11. When we first start with animals or livestock we are happy enough to get ONE area fenced sufficiently for our animals. However, attentive farmers often have fenced areas they live empty for periods of time to promote recovery. Ideally animals should be rotated through multiple pastures in order to limit the damage to your pastures, and to the animals themselves. Animals who don't get caked with mud in the first place, are also so much easier to keep clean !
12. When you have addressed most of your exterior muddy areas, you may wish to place a stall mat over the muddiest of areas. This can be cleaned later and will allow the animals ingress and egress to the barn without getting filthy.
|There are many different types of hoof gels and protectants. Speak to your farrier or equine vet to help select the one that is best for your animals.|
Lastly, we keep our homes and farm free of mud to help to avoid water collections in the form of unplanned ponds, and to mitigate mosquito borne diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and other issues. In some areas of the world, malaria can be an issue. West Nile Virus is increasingly an issue where I am. We keep our homes and farms free of mud because this is better for our animals, and certainly safer and more pleasant for us to work in while we must. However, whether we own our farms or homes or not, eventually we or our families will plan to sell. A farm or rural home for which drainage has been anticipated will look and smell much better and will sell for a higher price than one of which drainage issues have been a problem. Addressing seasonal water drainage is therefore an important investment issue.