Since mud season is just around the corner I thought I’d share some ideas I’ve come across. Grazing wet areas is always a problem. Many times, the animals just avoid the area if there are better forages on the dryer sites. You can play with this a little and observe how the animals behave by using polywire to fence off the mucky area when it is driest and let the animals in for a part of the day. What plants are they eating? Are they trampling some of the plants? Animal impact like this when the ground is driest can be a good way to alter the plant composition of the paddock.
If the area is perennially wet, you may just have to fence it off. There are many critters who relish the idea of a wetland, and it could be excellent wildlife habitat. Winter use of the area may be better. You could easily feed hay in the mucky areas when the ground is frozen, then move the animals to stockpiled forage during the spring and let the mucky areas alone to recover. You could also try to overseed some beneficial forage seeds into the mucky areas in the late winter. This is called frost seeding and is generally successful, as the freeze-thaw action of the soil works the seed into the ground for germination. Plants that do well in wet areas include Reed Canarygrass, Redtop, Creeping Foxtail, Timothy, Birdsfoot Trefoil, and Red Clover. Kings Agriseeds ( is a good source of seeds for the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states.

You can reduce the impact of livestock on wet areas by:

1. Short duration grazing periods (<12 hours).
2. Defer grazing in areas that are saturated if possible… if not keep to a shorter grazing period (4-6 hours)
3. Long rest periods (>45 days).
4. Leave adequate residual plants and litter after grazing (50 to 70% left after grazing). Much of this will be trampled into the soil if the livestock density is big enough; this feeds soil microorganisms and encourages good regrowth.
5. Use fiberglass step in posts, polywire, and an electric charger to separate paddocks - see Paddock Design, Fencing, Water Systems, and Livestock Movement Strategies for Multi-Paddock Grazing ( for details on using fencing and figuring out paddock size.
6. Construct stream or wetland crossings or fence barriers where water stands perennially.
7. If you choose to add forage species to your pastures, I recommend frost seeding in the very early spring (as described above) when the soil is thaw during the day and freezes at night. This helps work the seed into the soil ensuring better germination. Observe fields, when seedlings are noticed, defer grazing until the late summer or fall to allow for good establishment. If weeds are a concern, a short grazing period in early summer may be beneficial. Hay and Forage Grower has an article on why frost seedings fail and offers advice for ensuring a good establishment. Read the article at
8. A good case study in grazing mucky pastures is the SARE research paper Improving Wetlands Using Holistic Grazing of Dairy Cattle and Low Impact Crossings, available online at

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