Mud Prevention:
How to Prevent a Sticky Situation
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Mud: A thick, sticky substance that seems to form overnight in livestock paddocks and pastures, and whose only function is to pull shoes off of man and beast, strain ligaments and tendons, and provide safe harbor for pests like bacteria and fungus. Sound like fun?

Well, if it doesn’t, we have some alternatives for you. Surfaced paddocks are an excellent way to save your pastures from overgrazing and compaction, while providing a safe and dry place for your livestock to stay during the winter months.

Like nearly all home improvement projects, the most important step is the prep work. For any paddock to function well, the designated area must be scraped of any existing organic or loose, mud-making material. A slope of 1-2% away from the barn or other shelter is also necessary to help drainage and extend the life of the footing. Install gutters, downspouts and an outlet (or rain barrel with an overflow) to get the roof run-off diverted away from the paddock. In an average year with a rainfall of 45”, a 12’ x 12’ roof will shed over 4,000 gallons of water. Just re-routing this water can significantly reduce the accumulation of mud within a livestock keeping area.

So now you’re ready to install the new footing. But which
one do you choose?

Hogfuel, pole peelings or wood chips are an inexpensive route that can be used for almost any type of livestock. Make sure that the product is free of construction debris and does not contain toxic plants like black walnut and rhododendron. For animals like sheep, goats, and cows that are difficult to pick up after, a hogfuel paddock provides a mud free surface that can just be scraped away and composted after a season or two of use. After preparing the area, a 2” - 4” interface layer of either flakes of straw, old hay, or large crushed rock needs to go down to help improve drainage. If rock is used, this layer needs to be locked into place with either a roller or plate compactor to provide a level sub-surface. A final 18” layer of hogfuel is spread out on top. After about a week or two, this will compress to a mat of about 10”, providing a firm footing for your animals.

Gravel or sand is an excellent option for horse paddocks. While the initial cost of installation is higher, the paddock, once installed, will provide many years of mud free footing if regularly maintained. To install this paddock, the ground surface should be graded and sloped. A layer of non-woven Geotextile fabric, grids, or large crushed rock spread and compacted as mentioned above will prevent the footing material from sinking into the ground, stabilize the subsoil, provide improved drainage and increase the load bearing capacity. Finally, a 4” – 8” surface layer of crushed 5/8 or 3/8 rock (minus or washed), pea gravel, or coarse builder’s sand will provide you and your livestock with excellent drainage and a long term solution to mud.

As you can see, there are several options to choose from, and they all have their positive points and drawbacks. It is important to take your animal’s type and temperament, as well as your own needs and resources into account when choosing which footing to install. For more information, designs, or technical assistance to install a mud free paddock, or other best management practices on your farm, contact your local Conservation District.

Hogfuel, Pole Peelings or Wood Chips
+ Low cost
+ Low daily maintenance
+ Nutrient run-off is minimized
– Some animals are allergic to cedar
– The material will decompose over time and will need to be removed and replaced
– Animals are more susceptible to thrush and rain rot
Gravel or Sand
+ Material does not need to be replaced
+ Secure and firm footing
+ Easy to pick
– Higher cost to install
– A separate place to feed must be available
– Paddocks must be picked daily and raked regularly
The most important step to installing a well functioning, dry paddock is to grade and slope the paddock area to drain water away from the barn or shelter and towards a vegetative filter strip.
2” – 4” crushed rock provides an interface layer between the ground and the surface footing material.
Hog fuel or gravel paddocks help to prevent mud, protect pastures and provide a firm footing during the rainy winter months.
Pierce Conservation District
5430 66th Avenue East
P.O. Box 1057
Puyallup, WA 98371
Phone: (253) 845-9770

Fax: (253) 845-4569
Toll Free: (866) 845-9485