During wet seasons, cattle lots can quickly become muddy, causing an increase in energy needs which can negatively impact performance and growth. The research is clear when it comes to the negative effects of muddy conditions.
Mud can reduce daily
gains by up to
Mud can increase
the amount of feed
required per point
of gain by up to
Large amounts of mud
(12 to 14 inches deep)
can decrease feed
intake by up to
Even small amounts of
mud (4 to 8 inches deep)
can reduce feed intake
of animals by up to
The Bottom Line: Energy expenditure to compensate for the impact of mud decreases energy available for productive purposes, such as daily gain, immune system efficiency, reproductive function and/or protein accretion.
Cattle in areas with muddy conditions have an increased need for energy to sustain their maintenance requirements.3 The increased input costs needed to fulfill the energy requirements can have a direct hit to an operation's bottom line. The estimated effect of mud on net energy needed for maintenance requirements varies by weather conditions.
A study from the University of Nebraska measured the potential loss of gains relative to the depth of mud the cattle are standing in from 21-39° F. The estimated effect of mud on cattle performance based on temperature conditions can range from 7-35%.4
Bottom line: Mud presents additional stress on beef animals, which comes at an expense of productivity.
Cold, wet snow and wind alone or together can create weather stress on cattle. Mud that accompanies these stressors only increases the negative impact.5 Lower critical temperature (LCT) is the temperature below which an animal must burn extra energy to keep warm, thereby redirecting energy that should be used for maintenance, growth and performance. This table compares the percentage increase in energy required per degree Fahrenheit that the wind chill is below the animal's LCT, with either a dry, or wet winter coat.
Mud (or cold) stress abatement tip: The general rule of thumb is to increase winter ration energy by 1% for each degree Fahrenheit below the LCT.
Supplementing chromium can help mitigate the effects of mud and weather stress on your cattle. Chromium decreases cortisol - a stress hormone - during stressful periods,6 reducing glucose consumption by immune cells, so the immune response doesn't shift energy away from production.7
Feedlot cattle that are faced with immune challenges, such as mud stress, demand an increase in energy efficiency to prevent sickness. This energy is therefore redirected from other production factors such as daily gain. During these challenges, glucose metabolism increases, which increases chromium utilization and ultimately leads to a chromium deficiency. Research conducted at Texas Tech University suggests that supplementing the diet with chromium propionate enhances the immune response of steers to an immune challenge.8
Research shows cattle fed 300 ppb of chromium had an 11% increase in average daily gain (ADG) and a 71% decrease in the need to be treated at least once.
KemTRACE® Chromium - the first product of its kind on the market - is a water soluble, highly bioavailable, organic source of chromium that helps stabilize insulin receptors in cattle. This improves glucose utilization for increased energy and proper cell function, resulting in better immunity.
KemTRACE Chromium is supported by more than 20 years of Kemin research and is the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration-reviewed form of chromium propionate.
Start with these resources.
Mud presents additional stress on beef animals. Energy expenditure to compensate for the effects of mud decreases energy available for productive purposes, such as daily gain, immune system efficiency, reproductive function and/or milk production. Chromium acts to potentiate the action of insulin, which ultimately allows more glucose availability at the cellular level. Additional glucose is used by the animal in a hierarchical manner to help reduce the energy demand from mud and to provide needed energy for productive purposes.
1Bond, T. E., W. N. Garrett, R. L. Givens and S. R. Morrisson. (1970). Comparative effects of mud, wind and rain on beef cattle performance. (meeting paper). American Society of Agricultural Engineers Annual Meeting.
2National Research Council. (1981). Effect of Environment on Nutrient Requirements of Domestic Animals. Washington, DC:National Academies Press.
3Shirley, R. L. and G. E. Smith. (1971). Nitrogen and Energy Nutrition of Ruminants. London:Academic Press. 112.
4Beef Feeder. (1991). A sure cure to sure footing. University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture.
5T. Marston, et al. (1988). Beef Cow Nutrition Guide. Kansas State University.
6Mowat, D. N. (1996). Supplemental organic chromium for beef and dairy cattle. Proceedings of Asia-Pacific Lecture Tour. 31.
7Stoakes, S. K., et al. (2015). Estimating glucose requirements of an activated immune system in Holstein steers. Journal of Animal Science. 93:s3/Journal of Dairy Science. 98:s2.
8Bernhard, B. C., et al. (2012). Chromium supplementation alters the performance and health of feedlot cattle during the receiving period and enhances their metabolic response to and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge. Journal of Animal Science. 90:3879-3888.
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