Mud management in the feedlot

Long-term management involves proper pen construction.

February 8, 2023

2 Min Read
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Mud could be the biggest environmental problem facing some Corn-Belt cattle feeders right now. Not only does it affect animal performance, but it can also affect feedlot owner behavior. Some cattle feeders may be less inclined to purchase/add cattle to an already muddy feedlot.

Mud reduces accessibility to feedbunks for cattle. The general effect of muddy lots is to decrease feed intake, decrease average daily gain, and to require more feed for each pound of gain. As animals are stressed by mud, they eat less and their maintenance requirement increases.

When combined these two factors can cause a loss in animal performance and a corresponding increase in the cost to produce that animal. Feed intake may become more variable, contributing to digestive upsets. This will further reduce animal performance.

The following table can be used for feedlot performance projections according to mud conditions:

Lot condition

Gain Reduction

No Mud


Dew Claw Deep


Shin Deep


Below Hock Deep


Hock Deep


In the short term, management may involve bedding and/or scraping. As pens in the feedlot empty, remove excess manure from the feeding apron, loafing, and drainage area. Repair and reconstruct drainage ditches and feeding aprons if necessary. Manure that accumulates beneath the fence line works like a dam and impounds water to the feedlot.

Long-term management involves proper pen construction. The idea is to have a dry place for cattle to lie down close to feed and water. Ideally, cattle should have access to a paved feeding apron accessible from loafing areas. The apron should be 10-12 feed with and slope one inch per foot. Continually check drainage ditches to make sure they are open.

Pens slopes of 3 to 6 percent are suggested. Avoid steep lots because of the erosion problem and because of the hazard that steep lots create for cattle walking from the bottom of the pen to the bunk, particularly when the lot becomes frozen, rough and slippery. Waterers should be located close to the feeding area, but not so close that the animals will carry feed to it and stagnate the water.

One should also strive to limit water entering the feedlot to that being deposited by cattle as manure/urine and direct rainfall. Below are listed some common facilities for diverting water away from the pens. In all cases, these structures need to be maintained.

* Waterways, small terraces, and roof gutters direct water away from livestock yards.

* An earthen ridge or terrace can be constructed across the slope upgrade for a livestock yard to prevent runoff from entering the yard.

* If a diversion terrace is not practical, a catch basin with a tile outlet could be installed above the livestock yard.

Of course any feedlot run-off should be directed away from wells.

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