Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Monday, May 29, 2017

Which Bedding is Best for Goats in a Barn

Finally, after nine years I have solved the problem, cracked the code, discovered the secret of how to maintain a goat stall.  Each year, I have searched the internet trying to find someone to tell me how to keep the goats in the barn without having it be stinky and also keep the goats really clean overnight so that it takes minimal effort to get them ready for milking in the morning.

For the first several years, I used hay on the floor of the stalls.  I read about "deep bedding", but didn't really understand it.  I thought that was what I was doing, but it wasn't working for me.  After several weeks of having the goats in the barn during kidding and milking season, the stalls would get full of poop and soggy with urine and the barn would get that unpleasant ammonia smell.  My nanny would frequently come out of her stall in the morning and jump on the milking stand with a big glob of poop on her hoof or poop stuck to her side. and Tom and I (mostly Tom) would have to clean the stall by taking out all of the hay bedding every week to two weeks.  That is a tough job.  Then I would replace all the bedding.

One year, we tried using wood shavings.  That worked pretty good for a while, but we still ended up having to clean the stalls out too frequently.  Plus, buying wood shavings seemed like an unnecessary expense to me.

Last year, we designated one of our three stalls as a test for having sand as the bedding.  That really did work well, but each morning, I had to use a large kitty litter scoop to scoop out as much of the poop as I could.  Our stalls are 10x20, so it was like scooping a mammoth kitty litter box.  And there really was no easy way to do that and no tools on the market that I could find to facilitate that process.   It did keep the goats clean, though, and there was no smell.  We use sand in our chicken coop and it is the best.

Anyway, maybe farming isn't supposed to be easy, but I like easy.  At least, I like to make things as easy as they can be.

This year I tried something new.  Or, at least it was new to me.  I think I just finally figured out "deep bedding".  But, truly, this was THE answer.

For those of you searching for THE answer, I'll tell you how I managed my stalls this year, step by step.  I've had two adult goats and seven kids in the barn since the beginning of March and my stalls still smell and look like clean, fresh hay.  And, I haven't had one glob of poop tracked up onto the milking stand.  Now, we grow and bale our own hay, so those of you who have to buy hay might not find this as economical as we do.

So, here it is:

I started out the season by covering our clay floored stalls lightly with hay.  It took two bales in each stalls to get this done.  It's not all a waste because while it's clean, the goats will also eat it.

Each morning after I let the goats out of the barn, this is what the bedding would look like.  Some visible spots of urine.

Some goat poop sitting on top of the hay.  If there are kids in the stalls, they run around and play and much of the poop gets buried or half buried by the hay that they kick around.  I was sometime lucky enough to have undisturbed piles like this that were easy to scoop up.

I would take my fork and scoop up any obvious wet spots like this one.

And dump it in my wheelbarrow.

I did the same with any poop that I could easily see.  I did not go digging around in the bedding searching for wet spots or poop to scoop out.  But, when I scooped, I took a lot of the surrounding hay with it.  If I tried to pick up just the poop with this fork, it would have just fallen through the tines and scattered.  It's better to just sacrifice a clump of hay, even if it is clean and dry.

Each morning, I would have a wheelbarrow full of dirty hay to haul out.  Tom just took it to the burn pile, but it could have been composted.

I always have a hay net hanging for the goats to eat from.  Usually, when the goats pull hay out of it, a lot of it falls on the ground right below the net.  And, the goats tend to stand with their nose to that spot instead of their rear, so that is the one spot that is usually safe from pee and poop.  Because of that, I would place a bale of hay just below the hay net.  For the next several days, I would use this hay to scatter on the spots that I had scooped out and anywhere else that I could see wet hay or poop that hadn't been scooped out.

The goats eat from this bale as well, so it gets torn up and scattered, but I found that most of it stayed in a mound right there and I could use the clean hay for about 5 days.

Again, if kids are in the barn, they love to jump on the bales and they get torn down and spread about much more quickly than the stalls that the adults stay in.  This is a bale after just two nights of kids playing in it.

This is kind of hard to see, but this is a divot where I scooped out the soiled hay.

Here I am taking from my clean bale of hay.

And liberally spreading it over the soiled areas.

Now it's covered up with clean hay.  The clay floor is damp underneath there, but it is dry and fresh smelling on top.

After two months, the hay is about eight inches deep in this stall and looks, feels and smells fresh.

Here's another picture of my set-up.  Hay net, hay bale, deep bedding, water bucket with fresh water every day (I've discovered that it is easier to keep a smaller water bucket in there.  It's easier to refill and, surprisingly, the goats never spill it).  I also put a few bowls out with a dab of sweet feed in them for the goats when they come in.  They know it's there and are always very eager to get back to the barn in the evening, so there is no dilly dallying on the way.

We also have a ceiling fan in each stall.  I turn these on full force and let them run all day.  I feel like this keeps the air circulated, helps dry out any wet spots that I may not have covered, and also discourages flies from hanging out in the stalls.

And, there you have it.  This worked great for me this season.  I know that it's going to be a bear to clean out at the end of the season because there are several bales of hay and the hay is damp underneath, which will make it very heavy.  But, this made my daily maintenance sooo much easier and quicker.  It only took me about 20 minutes each morning to clean two stalls and get them all prepared for when the goats came in at night.  So, all I had to do is open the doors and let them run in.

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