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Dealing with MUD During the Winter

Updated: Jan 24

Everyone who lives in a colder region loves a “white” winter. Waking up to a blanket of snow was a dream when we were kids, and as adults it is awesome to sip on a hot cup of coffee while looking out at the winter wonderland. 

In reality, farming with livestock during the winter can be a challenge, and often comes with more extensive care. To start, our southern Indiana winters are often milder and have limited amounts of snow. We might have several decent snows a year, but the majority of our precipitation comes in the form of cold rain. The temperature will teater between freezing and not freezing. The rain combined with the freezing/thawing temperatures is challenging for animals typically in the pasture setting. The weather is a big reason why we house our animals inside, especially during the winter months. If housed outdoors we would have to have a lot of stockpiled (grass not grazed and saved for winter) acres of grass/pasture. It would take lots of pasture not only to feed them but to make sure and keep them moving to different spots so that the ground isn’t tore up by their hooves and the freezing/thawing of the ground. We do not have the quantity of pasture needed for this. We also cannot keep our cows on their pasture for the whole winter because it needs a rest period. If cows are continuously on pasture the hoof pressure and grazing nature will rid the ground of grass and turn it into mud. Over time (maybe years) this overgrazing will destroy the pasture and there won’t be edible grass for cattle during the actual grazing season. We will explain in future blog posts what our farm does to extend the grazing season into the winter months. 

Like previously mentioned, mud is a more common winter occurrence around our southern Indiana area. So, during the winter muddy months we house all animals indoors if possible. This helps us control their environment better and save the pasture land from turning into mud. In the barns we have an area for the animals to sleep and an area for them to eat. This helps to keep the barn clean. In order to keep all the animals dry and comfortable, we put in straw and sawdust bedding in their lounging area. This bedding process which happens 1-2 times a week depending on weather creates a “bed pack”. The bed pack combines the organic material (straw/sawdust) with the animal's fecal matter and creates a “mattress” that is comfortable to lay on. Along with acting as a mattress, the bed pack generates some heat (similar to that of a heating pad). The manure in the eating area is cleaned out weekly to ensure a clean area for all the animals.

The weather can play a major role in how often we have to clean and bed the barns. The more rain and mud there is, the more we have to clean the barns. If possible and freezing weather allows, we like to fence a cornfield near our cow barn so that we can let the cow/calf pairs out to roam a bit. When the ground is frozen the animals do not disturb it as they would if it wasn’t. 

During these winter days (like this week) we all like to go back to sunshine and green grass; however, in reality, we know that our animals are more comfortable inside of a barn. This management practice works for our farm and other farmers may do things differently. For example in colder environments with snow cattle are often able to withstand the elements outside as long as their stomachs are full and they have some sort of wind break. The cattle develop very think coats and actually prefer snow over rain. With our more moderate temperatures, our cows don’t develop as thick of a coat over the winter months, so the barn environment helps with this also! As always, there is never only one way to raise livestock and as environments change, so do our management practices.


Olivia, Tabby, Gina, & Kendra

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