CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Country Smallholding today CLICK HERE

Keeping your animals dry and mud-free

PUBLISHED: 17:58 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 21:05 29 April 2014

JAN 17, 2013: Keeping your animals dry and mud free can be a challenge at this time of year.

I honestly can’t remember a wetter summer and autumn than we had last year, and created no end of problems for everyone, whether growing crops and vegetables or rearing bees and livestock. The cereals harvest across the country was an especially tricky one for farmers, with most reporting lower yields. Some have even had difficulty getting their machinery onto the land for harvesting.

So it’s no wonder that all this wet weather had an effect on our animals too. While the pigs might have enjoyed a good wallow in the mud, most of the other livestock didn't, and in some cases they really do suffer from its effects. When their skin is constantly exposed to wet and muddy ground it can get quite ‘spongy’, and once the skin’s lost its integrity it presents an ideal opportunity for naturally-occurring soil bugs to take hold.

Muddy wool
In sheep, for example, you might see patches of what looks like ‘lumpy wool’ on their backs. If you look closely you’ll see clumps of wool held together by a sticky mass, or greyish scabs, and sometimes you can see new growth coming through underneath. This is caused by bacteria (Dermatophilosis), and is exactly the same organism that’s responsible for ‘rain scald’ on horses’ backs and ‘mud fever’ on their legs and heels. Although many horse owners will have their equines rugged and booted-up to the nines to give them as much protection as possible, a lot of the native breeds, like our Exmoor ponies, don’t need this – and I’ve never yet seen a field of sheep in overcoats!

Scald
The other problem for sheep on wet, muddy ground is scald, caused by another soil bacteria, in this case Fusobacterium Necrophorum. The wet skin between the sheep’s digits gets rubbed and softened by mud, letting the bacteria take hold. If caught early enough, scald can be treated quite easily with an antibiotic spray from your vet, but if the sheep has to stay on a wet field, it’s likely to come back again and, if not treated quickly, can progress to full-blown footrot, which can be much more difficult to treat.

Fungal Spores
The poultry aren’t keen on the rain and mud either (even ducks don’t like too much mud!) and however much they preen themselves, a chicken’s feathers do suffer in the wet, and shabby feathers will hamper a chicken’s ability to keep warm. So make sure they have some shelter in their run, and try to stop the ground getting muddy; wood chip is ideal, but make sure it doesn’t have bark on it, as this can harbour fungal spores (Aspergillus) that can cause respiratory disease in poultry.

Build up a resistance to disease
Thankfully, all these conditions will respond to the right treatment from your vet, but as the organisms are widely present in the environment, there’s precious little you can do to protect them from the outside. The best way you can help is to build their resistance to disease from the inside: by making sure they have all the minerals and vitamins they need to support healthy skin, wool, hair and feathers, you can keep all your animals warm and happy through the British winter!

If you do suspect that your animals are suffering from any of these conditions, it always makes sense to ask your vet to have a closer look, as there are other diseases that can have similar symptoms. The vet will be able to take ‘skin scrapes’ (which won’t hurt the animal) and send them off to a laboratory where they can identify the exact cause, and prescribe the most appropriate treatment.

* The Adam Henson Smallholder Products offer mineral licks and sprays, created to supplement your animals’ nutrition and boost their well-being. For more information visit www.ahsmallholder.com. To learn from Adam’s farming techniques first hand visit the Cotswold Farm Park: www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk






































not just been a problem for harvesting our arable crops. In some way or other, the constant mud has challenged all our animals. Sheep in particular

Highlighted Products: Hoofix

Continuous wet weather compromises the integrity of skin (and horn), leaving it susceptible to infection, eg. mud fever and rain scald in horses’lameness – scald – in sheep, and poor feathering in poultry. Perhaps refer to one of the donkeys at the Cotswold Farm Park that has had a touch of mud fever, and how Adam and the staff have been treating it. Emphasise importance of maintaining skin’s natural resillience and the role of chelated zinc.




I honestly can’t remember a wetter summer and autumn than we’ve had this year, and it’s created no end of problems for everyone, whether growing vegetables and cereals, or rearing animals, the almost constant rain and cool weather has set everything back. The cereals harvest has been a tricky one especially for farmers, with most reporting lower yields and difficulty even getting tractors and machinery onto the land in some parts. So it’s no wonder that all this wet weather has an effect on our livestock and domestic animals too. While the pigs might have enjoyed a good wallow in 100 words


0 comments

Interact with other smallholders and post your questions

Visit our forums


More from Livestock

Friday, September 7, 2018

Caring for pregnant livestock can tax even the most experienced smallholder. Tim Tyne discusses how to look after expectant ladies and spot the warning signs when something is amiss

Read more
September 2018
Friday, September 7, 2018

Chickens, as well as turkeys, gamebirds and other poultry can be affected by Newcastle Disease

Read more
September 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Liz Shankland continues her guide to improving herd productivity, this time investigating the importance

Read more
August 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018

In this focus on fertility, Liz Shankland looks at what you can do to maximise the number of piglets produced in each farrowing

Read more
July 2018
Monday, April 9, 2018

Jack Smellie looks at what to do when lambing and kidding doesn’t go to plan

Read more
April 2018
Monday, April 9, 2018

Smallholder Tim Tyne advises on the treatment of lambs which are hypothermic

Read more
April 2018
Monday, April 9, 2018

Debbie Kingsley outlines the rules and regulations for smallholding – this month identifying your sheep or goats

Read more
April 2018
Friday, March 9, 2018

Now to the crux of things. In his series about the most challenging aspects of smallholding, Tim Tyne turns to livestock

Read more
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Debbie Kingsley talks to sheep keepers Steven and Hannah Payne about their Tordown flock

Read more
March 2018

Most Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Country Smallholding monthly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

This Year’s Shows

Country Smallholding cover image

Don’t miss our comprehensive guide to rural events

Find out more

Like us on Facebook


Follow us on Twitter