Cattle feeding in muddy area

As there is little one can do to stop the melting snow and rising waters, we can try to manage by preparing alternative livestock and feeding areas.

Editor’s note: The following was written by Taylor Grussing, South Dakota State University cow-calf field specialist, for the university’s iGrow website March 19.


Rain, snow and warming temperatures are making this winter one that livestock producers will not forget.

Recent flooding has wreaked havoc on livestock producers in southeastern South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, while blizzard conditions and feet of snow are still creating challenges for producers in the north and western sides of South Dakota.

As there is little one can do to stop the melting snow and rising waters, we can try to manage by preparing alternative livestock and feeding areas.

Take a look around the whole operation and find the highest ground possible. This could be a hay field, food plot or even tree belt areas. Temporary fencing may need to be used to make these areas work for livestock housing.

If natural elevation is not available, creating temporary mounds in pastures or yards may be needed. Choose an area with the least water traffic and build up mounds with either soil, manure, old bedding or broken hay bales.

Next, try to haul feed out of low areas to more accessible ground.

Feeding cattle plenty of dry forages will help them maintain proper rumen function during stressful conditions. If forage is moist due to rain or snow, increase feeding amounts to adjust for higher moisture levels. Avoid offering grains to livestock who have been off feed, as rumen upset may occur with high-starch rations. Set up feeding areas as close to livestock as possible to limit transportation problems, and use temporary fencing to portion off feed if needed.

Calving season is underway for many, therefore providing care for younger livestock adds another level to mud management. These young babies may need new health care compared to other years. Visit with the local veterinarian to see if extra health products at birth may be worth giving to calves.

Stock up on extra supplies to care for these new babies, including colostrum replacers or supplements, milk replacers and bottles, towels, blankets and plenty of clean bedding and wind protection just for calves. Stock trailers can be a place to keep calves out of the mud and the elements temporarily. Also, creep gates and bale feeders can be used to make bedding areas for calves and keep cows out.

Lastly, make sure a current inventory of all classes of livestock is available. If fences become washed out or cattle wander, informing locals about how many animals you need help finding is important.

Also, if livestock losses need to be turned into the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), you will need to have an updated inventory on-hand.