The last couple weeks have been host to cool, wet weather. Resulting from that weather, muddy conditions have been very persistent. Not only is mud a hassle for farmers conducting daily chores, but it can also negatively affect cattle performance.
Remember back to the last time you walked through a muddy lot (even if it was just yesterday). It is slippery, mucky, and certainly takes more energy to tromp through the pen. It is the same for cattle. Walking through the mud will require more energy.
The added energy needed results in less going to weight gain and performance. In 1991, University of Nebraska researchers published some numbers common numbers associated with loss of gain due to mud.
Mud depth Loss of Gain
Declaw deep 7%
Shin deep 14%
Hock deep 28%
Belly deep 35%
More recently a report published in the 2011 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report showed temperature, pen space, and bedding all factor into lost performance due to mud. The entire report can be viewed here.
The summary concluded that the effects of mud can be substantial to cattle performance and energy requirements. Bedding may help minimize the negative effects, however cost of bedding and labor needs to spread/handle it may be prohibitive. The author stated proper bedding space would provide 20 to 40 sq. ft. per feedlot animal. Cows or pairs would be higher. All in all, producers should be aware of the adverse effects of mud along with cold temperatures. Providing facilities that have solid footing, improved drainage, and bedded areas to ensure hair coats are not compromised by mud will lessen performance losses.