Fall has officially arrived. Soon we’ll be firmly immersed in rain and mud season. Landowners with livestock face additional challenges once the Oregon rains arrive in full. Muddy pastures and paddocks can cause health concerns for horses. They can also invite invasive weed problems in the spring and make chores significantly more difficult.
Prepare now for a better winter for both you and your animals!
There are things you can do now to protect your animals from health issues related to mud. These actions will also help you avoid slogging through a muddy mess. Additionally, these good stewardship practices will also help protect our many local waterways. Keeping mud and manure out of our creeks, streams, and rivers safeguards vital fish and wildlife habitat. It also protects the drinking water supply for many of our friends and neighbors. It’s a win-win situation all around!
- Use fences to keep animals out of creeks, wetlands, and lakes. Provide alternative water sources if needed.
- Practice good pasture management for a healthy pasture. Avoid grazing when the soil can’t support the weight of the animal. If the animal is leaving hoof impressions in the soil, the soil is too soft.
- Designate a sacrifice area where you are willing to keep your livestock during the winter. This area can also be used for short periods during the growing season, after pastures have been grazed down to three inches. This protects pastures from being destroyed during the rainy winter season. The vegetation in your sacrifice area will be trampled and the ground will become muddy, which is a “sacrifice.” However, this will allow your remaining pasture areas to recover from grazing and will promote healthy grass and hay stands.
- Install a heavy use area that will keep your animals out of the mud. Work with your local Soil and Water Conservation District to design the heavy use area for your particular situation.
- Maintain a grassy area around the sacrifice area to filter any runoff that may occur. This buffer should be at least 25 feet wide around the sacrifice area, but wider if your sacrifice area is near a stream.
- Install gutters and downspouts on all buildings and divert water away from the sacrifice area or barnyard.
- Plant trees and moisture-loving shrubs outside of sacrifice areas. Trees can drink a lot of water, helping to keep the area drier and reducing surface runoff.
Let us help you win the battle with mud and safeguard your livestock!
The Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation has many resources to help landowners with their mud, manure, and pasture concerns. Many of these resources are located on our Horse Keeping and Land Management page. For additional assistance, contact us at 503-210-6000 or at [email protected]
The above tips were adapted from Tips on Land & Water Management for Small Acreages in Oregon