Mud and Lameness in Beef Cattle

Melting snow and spring rains produce conditions that can increase lameness in beef cattle. Mud is among the predisposing causes for cattle lameness. Wetness decreases hoof hardness and increases the incidence of claw lesions. Research has shown that nearly one-third of the total water absorbed by the hoof happens during the first hour of exposure to high moisture resulting in heavier and softer hooves. Although not as prevalent as observed in the dairy industry, when it happens it may lead to decreased feed intake, lower weight gains, reduced reproduction (both in cows and bulls), and greater culling rates. Beef producers address muddy conditions by creating mounds where cattle can lay down on higher, drier ground. There is a minimal cost to establish a mound particularly when the shaping takes place previous to installing fences, bunks, watering and aprons. With a slope of 3% – 5%, mounds work best when built parallel to the direction of the slope and are located in the center line of the pen. In older lots these mounds can be newly built or strengthened periodically by adding manure and dirt. Mounds however do not last forever and more than likely will need some reshaping with additional material yearly. The main concern is when either by accident small rocks or pebbles are present in the material used to build them. Standing cattle apply a significant amount of pressure to any surface. In a 2017 University of Kentucky article researchers compared this pressure with that of other livestock, […]