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Monday, April 9, 2012

Mud Control

I am about to share a piece of information that will change your life. That is if your life is full of

 
MUD.

 And this little secret will turn
this 
to 
this

If you have any livestock at all, mud is a fact of life. Especially here in the Willamette Valley, where we are having a record setting spring for precipitation.

Horses can be the worst of offenders because of their weight, habits and their wide hooves which act like plungers on the soil.

Years ago a friend who ran a horse rescue gave us a tip which we have capitalized on for many wet winters. Rubber stall mats. The kind you would line horse trailer floors or cement floored stalls with.
Lay them right on the soil, BEFORE the mud begins.

If you lay them out after the mud gets deep, the mats will migrate and sink. Like this one did. They still keep the mud down but they don't work as well as they can if you put them down while it is still dry out.
The horses love to hang out in this corner where they can see the trailer, so they can see if we are coming to feed them on any given moment of the day. They like to dream that that could happen. The mat that has worked it's way up on top of the others only did that because we put it down after there was already some mud. If we had put it down while it was dry out it would have stayed put, like the other mats in the photo.
If you put them down while the soil is dry and flat, they will prevent the mud from forming in the first place, by spreading the weight of the animal over a wider area and causing rain to run off in another direction. They work amazingly well for years and years if they are put down while the soil is dry.

Stall mats are a bit expensive, around $35 on sale but they last forever and make you and your animals life so much better. They're mobile so you can take them elsewhere when you need to. Albeit a little like wrestling a giant stinky eel, if you have to move them in winter.

They are made of recycled tires and last forever. We have some that are 14 years old. They don't smell so great, but they do the job.

Buck and I invested a bit of money last fall on setting up our loafing shed and the accoutrement that go with having a sturdy and safe area for livestock. At the top of the list and worth every dime were several stall mats.
 
Strategic placement of the mats help make the most of what we've got. Inside the loafing shed they make a safe and sanitary place to toss hay. Make sure you do not let the edge of a mat hang out in the roof drip line though, because it will funnel water into your barn.

They also make it extremely easy to clean out the shed with a flat shovel. Then we just hose it off. It always helps if you have situated your shed and pasture on slightly higher ground, so that you have good drainage.
 
Most livestock want to pace the fence closest to the barn where the food comes from.

Gates are a funnel for increased foot traffic.
 

Water and food troughs are always a real vortex of mud too.

We are far from having a mud free pasture, but these mats make all of our lives a lot better all winter long and each summer we will add a few more.

 Here are a few of the websites I have found useful in my battle with mud.

Pennsylvania State University "Nutrient Management"
Sacrifice area.
Oregon State University Small Farm
Tips on Land and Water Management for Small Farm and Livestock owners

3 comments:

  1. That is a great idea. We don't have any livestock that causes mud problems but I am going to keep this in mind for later. I'm looking forward to some gravel for our mud parking lot this summer, but I don't think a mat will quite solve our problem there. hehe

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