Need input from folks in snow country

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Rusty Hills Farm, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. Rusty Hills Farm

    Rusty Hills Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 3, 2008
    Up at the barn
    Okay, I am a child of the South. Born in Florida and currently living in Alabama. I did once 20 years ago spend a winter in Colorado and swore never again. Sooooo...

    We had 4.5" of snow over Sunday/Monday and most of it is still here. Temps are in the high teens and the high for today is supposed to be 32. Humidity is 64%. Today is our first look at the sun since Saturday. When I look out across my fields, they look snow covered. However, when I go out there and try to walk, what I actually have are fields covered in a sheet of ice. I fell just walking up to the barn this morning. At spots like the gates, the ice is so bad that I cannot remain upright unless I hang onto the fences.

    My horses are stalled for the 3rd day because I am afraid to let them out. Since I cannot walk on the "snow" without falling, I am seriously afraid of them falling and breaking legs out there, so they are up again.

    What I am trying to figure out is if the sun will melt this stuff even though it is below freezing? Is the humidity low enough that it can just evaporate?

    Next, if it is not going to evaporate before the temp goes up above freezing, is there anything I can do to make it safe enough to let the horses out? For instance, is it safe to "salt" the paddock area or will the runoff kill my grass or poison my horses?

    Any advice on how to deal with this sheet of ice will be GREATLY appreciated.

    Rusty (whose boots were frozen to the porch floor this morning!)

    edited to add that my farm is rolling to steep, not flat anywhere, which is a large part of my problem today!
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2011
  2. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    Ice is always a lot worse than snow. For walkways, paths and icy spots in the yard, we spread sand over ice, to give traction. Plus we own an ice chopper, a metal tool with a blade that breaks ice up. It works the best on softened ice, close to melting temperature. That's terrible, that you have such huge areas that are icy, though. It does sound dangerous for your horses. I hope you get some warmer weather soon, to melt it.

    Although we have gotten freezing rain occasionally, we mainly get ice issues from the times when it thaws a bit and refreezes. For us, a heavy snow on top of ice buries it. Then we get the traction of walking in snow. Unless it's spring, when it just melts away.
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Do not salt the ice over grass, yes it will kill the grass and make it exceedingly hard to grow grass there in future either. If you have fertilizer pellets you can scatter them around to melt (or anyhow weaken/roughen) the ice, done at not too much more than a normal fertilizer application rate it will not harm the grass at all (can create nutrient-enrichment problems from runoff into creeks, but used only rarely as an emergency measure, Oh Well).

    The best solution IME is your manure pile, or any really filthy stalls you may have needing to be cleaned out. You can use the stuff to make paths or even to make a safe walking area in a roundpen or corner of a pasture or whatever (bearing in mind your judgement of what individual horses are likely to do... I would not turn a young stalled-for-3-days TB out in a large pasture only a corner of which is nonicy!)

    If temperatures are really cold you sometimes need to dampen the stuff first but I do not expect that to be a likely problem in Alabama. If temps are at least in the 20s F and it is sunny (or around freezing even if not sunny) all you need to do is spread the stuff over the ice, either fairly thinly (so some ice shows through) or in a like 4-6" thick layer. (Avoid thicknesses in between, which are not as nonslip.) Let it sit a few hours or half a day. The manure and soiled bedding will fairly quickly start to bond with the surface of the ice, and you will have a much more horse- and people-friendly surface to walk on.

    Obviusly when it all melts you will then have a path of thinly-strewn manure or stall cleanings, but oh well, small price to pay for not having broken bones or horses trapped in stalls. It disappears in time.

    Snow will go away on its own to some degree, without temps getting above freezing, but once it has consolidated into a sheet of actual ICE then you really pretty much have to wait for a thaw, unfortunately.

    One winter when I was living in Ohio, and boarded at a very hilly barn there, the horses were stuck indoors for five days because of SEVERE hard skating-type ice all over everywhere. Several horses who'd been turned out overnight when the ice hit had to be laboriously rescued from the top of a steep hill paddock above the barn by wheelbarrowing out loads of dampened shavings and stall cleanings (uphill, on glare ice, very entertaining!) to lay down a path... one of the horses was fairly ancient and both smart *and* arthritic, and we had to individually move each of his feet by hand, step by step, practically the whole way to get him in. It was no fun. They stopped leaving horses out overnight if there was ANY forecast of ice, after that [​IMG]

    Good luck,

    Last edited: Jan 12, 2011
  4. Rusty Hills Farm

    Rusty Hills Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 3, 2008
    Up at the barn
    The best solution IME is your manure pile, or any really filthy stalls you may have needing to be cleaned out.

    TERRIFIC IDEA! Boy, do I have a manure pile! It is mostly well-rotted shavings at this point. Plus I have stalls with a 3-day accumulation!

    Thank you so much for this suggestion! I would not have thought of this in a million years. Plus our soil is heavy clay, so when it thaws, this will actually be helpful to lighten it a bit!


  5. WIChookchick

    WIChookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 25, 2010
    Rural Brooklyn, WI
    Yup up here in WI, we use WET shavings to create walkways for the horses, and for us. If you can go out and spread the manure around the water tank, and around the gate. Then get one older horse and lead them around the area you are going to turn them out in.. That one can help the others.
    You may have to watch out for "ice balls" if your horses have shoes on. Before turning them out, if they have shoes on, spray some pam OR cooking spray into their hooves, that prevents ice balls from forming.
    Using cat litter is also a good idea for areas you might walk an, if you don't have sand available. NOT used cat litter, just plain old boring cat litter.
    IF you can go out and throw up a bit of hot wire before turning out, to make a smaller space that would work too, to help them not get hurt.
    I would take your stallion out again, on a lunge line with a chain (if you feel you need one), and let him explore the snow, near the barn, once he is a bit comfortable, take him to his paddock.

    Hope this helps!!
    Carol in WISCONSIN
  6. EweSheep

    EweSheep Flock Mistress

    Jan 12, 2007
    Land of Lincoln
    Yep we used that method over snow and ice and it gave my horses good traction. When spring thaws out, it gets muddy but well plowed in by the horses' hooves. By summer, evidence were gone and grass love growing there.
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I do sort of the reverse, too, every late-winter, EweSheep -- you might want to experiment with it too, to minimize spring mud problems.

    When the weather starts to get warmer and the snow starts to go away, but it's not even close to exposing or thawing the ground, I do a wholesale cleanout of the stalls (and sometimes the chicken pens) and spread the (mostly clean, mostly still light-colored) shavings in a layer about 6-12" thick and 8' wide as a path from the shed out towards the middle of the main paddock. The insulating effect of the shavings bed keeps the ground beneath it frozen for literally weeks longer than adjacent areas, meaning that it stays firm and nonmuddy (or, later on, "less deeply muddy") to let the horses get out to the drier firmer part of the paddock without too much splorking. By the time that the ground under the shavings path finishes thawing, the adjacent ground is usually starting to dry out and firm up itself, so the horses just switch their travel path. And as EweSheep says, it improves clayey soil to have the shavings trampled in that way [​IMG]

    Returning to Rusty Hills' problem, if you DO decide you want to run electric to temporarily cordon off part of a paddock (it is a very "know thine own horses" kind of thing, good in some situations bad in others), an excellent way to put posts up when the ground is frozen-icy is to stick plastic step-in posts into buckets that you either fill with gravel or sand (in the South) or fill with water and prop the posts upright til it freezes (in the North). A *really* hard wind will blow these over if you are using electric tape, and if a horse runs into the fence and gets tangled they will of course move around and potentially tangle more, but in emergency "I need posts and cannot get them in the ground" situations it is a handy cheat to know.

    Good luck, hope you get thawed out soon,

    Pat, having an extraordinarily mild winter (in all ways) this year, and counting her blessings compared to what y'all are getting!!
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2011

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