Mud management

rich/ February 24, 2008/ Beef, Farm photos/

Buying grassfed beef is a pretty big financial decision, so its best to have as many facts as you can before making a commitment to a particular farm’s product. If the product doesn’t meet all of your criteria (health, environmental, humane, etc) for quality food, you can, and should, go elsewhere.

The 3/4 acre sacrifice area…note a small amount of mud to the left, and lots of bedding and high ground for happy steers. Click for bigger

One of the livestock management aspects that I’m particularly proud of is the winter treatment of our steers. In our wet Oregon climate, winter can be a pretty challenging time; we can’t let them graze all winter, since their heavy bodies will cause compaction of wet clay soil. This necessitates a “sacrifice area, ” which is an area we allow to get beaten up and compacted, in order to increase grass health on the other 95+% of the farm.

We designed our barn to open onto the best drained soil on the property. While some shallow mud occurs at the entrance, there’s plenty of room for the steers to hang out on firm ground.

Not having our animals in deep muck is not just an ethical concern, but a financial and environmental one as well. Animals who have to live in mud get sick more often, gain weight slower, and are generally less content. Not only would that cost us, and ultimately our customers, but it increases the energy footprint of our operation. A poorly producing pasture requires us to buy in more hay to supplement them…while we like our hay producer, there’s no reason to give them money when we can grow the product ourself.

When you think about it, having to spend the entire winter in shin-high mud would probably darken your mood a bit, as well.

Further, that mud often has to drain somewhere…if there’s not a large enough buffer from a waterway, sediment and manure can end up polluting our streams, which goes against my part time volunteer work.

This is the time of year that good management really begins to pay off. Our animals aren’t hock-deep in muck, are healthy and growing well, our unsacrificed pastures are starting to wake up for the season, and we don’t have a mudpit by the barn running mucky water into our creeks. The triple bottom line in action


  1. Very important post, so glad you did. I just HATE seeing MUD pastures. A lot of people don’t care, but I hold out hope for those who are just ignorant. Your post might help someone like that.

  2. Thanks Kat. While I don’t hold out a whole lot of hope that this post alone will change a land management practice, it may cause a buyer to look closer at management of their food. The power of the dollar….

  3. we’re always SUPER impressed by your mud management (as we noted last time we were there). speaking of good practices, we’d love to be on the list for your next harvest again. we’re almost out of beef!!!!!!

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