Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Muddy Matilda

Every night during the months the cows are on the wooded side of the property (meaning, winter) I tuck Matilda into her stall. She and Polly are the only ones who get their own stalls. I dunno why, maybe because it's because Jerseys are a little less hardy than Dexters. Or maybe (ahem) Matilda is such a beloved cow that she gets spoiled. Whatever the reason, Matilda likes her stall.

So it's part of my afternoon barn chores to muck out her stall and spread fresh straw on the floor. But for the last week or so, I've had a problem.

Last summer when we built the new barn, the builders had a bit of extra concrete, so they poured a pad in front of the chicken coop, which normally turns into a slurry goopy mess every winter. The concrete pad has been an immeasurable blessing and we haven't had to deal with any mud in front of the coop this winter.

But it did have one unforeseen consequence: the water, which no longer pooled in front of the coop, instead pooled next to the concrete pad... then seeped into Matilda's pen.

This meant there was constant mud in Matilda's stall. Worse, since we've had a few days of warmer weather and pouring rain (which melted the snow), there was something on the order of two inches of standing water (mixed with urine) in her stall. Ug.

Last night it was raining hard but the stall was so wet I debated leaving her outside. But cows are creatures of habit, so in she went. This morning she was as muddy as any of the animals who spent the night outside, and I knew it was time to do something.

Eventually we'll have to trench the area and divert all this water away from the outbuildings, but I needed a more immediate solution. And my solution was to thoroughly clean her stall, then put a generous layer of gravel inside.

This is our gravel pile, left over from the barn pad. Every farm should have a gravel pile. It's immensely handy.

Gravel is heavy, so I only moved a bit at a time.

Still, the wheelbarrow was so heavy that I couldn't bump it over the lip of the stall as I normally do, so I improvised with a small incline.

First couple of loads...

The stall has a slight slope to it, so I only graveled the lower portion. The gravel raised the floor level so Matilda would stay dry. It was SO nice not to have those awful pools of standing water and mud! Right now the gravel is bumpy and will no doubt be uncomfortable to lie on, but it will eventually pack down... and besides, bumpy gravel is better than mud and pooled water (and urine).

Next came bedding. At least this stuff won't become instantly saturated!

A nice padding, and Matilda should be much more comfortable tonight.

Just another day on the farm.


  1. One of the signs of a good person, Patrice. You care about your animals! Great job with the gravel. You're fortunate that you're still young enough to do these things. The wife and I are in our 60's and struggling to prepare as best we can. We could never tend to cows and work in a garden. Our knees and backs would never take it. But we're doing okay, nevertheless. By the way, we really like your new blog picture. Beautiful!
    --Fred & Deb in AZ

  2. What a great idea! Spoiled Jersey cows? NEVER!! :)

  3. A good lesson for us all. Always remember the ripple effect of what we do. Way to troubleshoot a quick solution Patrice.

  4. you are trully a good person. know what ya mean about the mud...n.e.miss. has had alot of rain this winter and my two sharpeis hate it...our front yard is becoming a sandlot from the rain and the dogs track/shake the sand off indoors...i bet i could fill a bucket with it at weeks end. getting your areas of mudpuddling fixed will help with insect control and any molds too.

  5. I had the same problem in one stall in my barn. Put gravel down and then cut a thick and heavy stall mat to fit. Makes the stall much easier to clean and need less bedding.

  6. Awww...a nice warm, dry, cozy "beddie bye" for Matilda.

    Who loves ya, Matilda? Your human-mama earned her nice warm, cozy beddie bye today, didn't she?

    Just Me

  7. Yep, one pile gravel, one pile top soil (for the holes dogs dig in the yard) one pile fill dirt. And a huge pile of bricks to make walkways and patch driveway holes. And two boys to push the wheel barrow!