Prepare your paddocks

Avoid mud fever – prepare your paddocks for winter

“WINTER!” we hear you say, “we’ve only just had a bit of summer”. Unfortunately, it’s that time of year again where you should be making plans and preparation to ensure your paddock, fields, and land is secured and safe for the winter period. There are many benefits to planning this challenge now, not least because it can be a long process, and often we find we are still working on paddock maintenance when the cold weather suddenly makes an appearance.

This month, Hillview Farm are looking into the key benefits of paddock maintenance for winter, including the most important – avoiding Mud fever.

It’s time to think about preparing your paddocks for winter.

When planning your paddock maintenance for the year, you should always be proactive in thinking about preventions rather than cures. There are many challenges that the cold, wet weather brings with it, and if you were to be faced with all of them, it would be incredibly difficult to make it through with a healthy paddock for the new year. That’s why having planned maintenance in place is always a safer option.

The first thing to consider when planning your winter maintenance is reseeding. This task can be carried out anywhere between March – September due to the moisture within the soil. Reseeding your paddock is great for improving any damage to your paddocks, health of your paddock and grass quality improvements.

On the opposite side of the calendar – much later into winter is when you should plan to test the soil pH and nutrient levels. Generally completed every 2-4 years, this testing gives you a chance to check the quality of the graze you are providing to your horses and other livestock. For ideal horse paddocks, your pH level is optimum between 5-6.5 and needs to be full of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

Mud fever in horses is more common and can be serious

As the colder weather sets in, it will often bring with it a sheet of rain that can leave our paddocks and fields waterlogged, muddy and generally wetter. Not only can this be dangerous for us as farmers to try to battle and maintain, but it can also be incredibly dangerous for our horses, which will still be spending time in the paddocks.

Mud fever is a skin condition caused by a bacterial infection that causes irritation and sores on a horses’ lower legs (generally on the pastern and the heel). Often, swelling and infection can arise under the scabs formed by the initial irritation, and left untreated, can make our horses feel very unwell. Mud fever is not contagious and is therefore not a requirement to separate your horses. However, it can make the horse feel very uncomfortable. In many cases, they will not tolerate the area being touched, making it slightly more difficult to treat in worse cases.

Mud fever is commonly caused by bacteria and is more common in winter months due to wet and muddy conditions. Leg mites can also cause mud fever, and if you feel this is the case, we advise speaking to your local vet for support and advice.

Avoiding mud fever with organised paddock maintenance

For horse health, amongst other important reasons, we advise thinking about getting your paddocks prepared for winter early to avoid challenging infections such as mud fever. Hillview Farm has been supporting paddocks and field maintenance across Buckinghamshire for over 25 years and has the knowledge and equipment ready to support you and your field too.

There are several ways you can prepare your fields for winter and avoid bacterial infections in your horses: 

  • Rotate your fields and follow best practices for grass management. For places where your horses gather together for longer periods, such as water troughs or gates, consider laying hardcore to protect the land from getting waterlogged.
  • Compaction is another reason to ensure that you maintain good levels of paddock rotation. Often caused by overgrazing, compaction can lead to weeds growing and impacts root growth and water filtration.
  • Fence off particularly muddy areas or areas you know from previous experience is more likely to get waterlogged in wet conditions.
  • Plan to fertilise your paddock to ensure that in the spring, you have strong growth. Use a fertiliser designed for paddocks, meaning it is safe for horses to be around and will be a slow-release, so your paddock will be supported for longer.
  • Now is the time to check and plan to repair any fencing that has become damaged through extended use, horse behaviour, rot or lack of treating. Check your fencing is secure for strong winds and replace any posts and panels that are beyond repair.

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Hillview Farm supporting all your paddock maintenance needs for winter

At Hillview Farm, we know the importance of maintaining your paddock year-round to ensure that you are providing your horses and livestock with a well balanced and luxurious place to spend their time. We are also aware that this can be difficult to manage, and your day job and other commitments. At Hillview Farm, we are a knowledgeable and experienced team of farm hands committed to supporting local farmers and paddocks within Buckinghamshire and the surrounding areas to continue with their good paddock maintenance. We have various services to support our clients with, from equestrian fencing, paddock maintenance, muck away services and topping.

If you are a farmer in need of support with your winter paddock maintenance, give Hillview Farm a call today, and we would be more than happy to visit you to see how we can support you and your horses in the safest and happiest of ways, all year round.