Stall Cleaning: A Necessary Part of Homesteading

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It’s not fun or sexy or exciting, but it is necessary — cleaning or mucking out stalls. If you asked ten people how they do this, you’d probably get ten different answers, and our answer has changed over the years. The answer may also vary based upon the animals occupying the stalls.

When my daughter had a horse years ago, it was easy to simply scoop out the poop each day because it was big and obvious. The same was true with a milk cow. However, when you have sheep or goats in a barn, most of their little berries will filter to the bottom of the bedding. They’re so small that it’s not realistic to try to remove just the manure.

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Since we use straw for bedding, a pitchfork or manure fork makes the most sense as a tool for getting out the straw and manure. However, years ago when we used shavings for bedding, we used a large scoop shovel because a pitchfork can’t pick up shavings.

With winter rapidly approaching, we recently did a complete stall clean out. We won’t clean them again until sometime in spring. There are two reasons for this. First, it’s not practical to try to drive a wheelbarrow through the snow and across ice. The second reason is that the goats will actually be warmer with “deep bedding.” We’ll continually add new layers of straw through the winter to cover up the poop. The deeper it gets, the more they’re insulated from the ground. As the poop and pee are buried, some decomposition starts happening, which creates an even warmer bed for them.

This is also why you don’t want an insulated barn. Ammonia needs to be able to escape. Otherwise it can irritate animals’ lungs and cause illness, such as pneumonia. It’s important to know that the human nose cannot smell ammonia before it reaches the level that can cause problems. So, if you can smell it, it’s at a really high level. And this is why you don’t want your animals living in the barn 24/7 through the winter. Our goats go outside every day, summer or winter, unless it’s raining or snowing.

For our recent barn cleaning, I was excited that Standlee had sent me a bag of Horse Fresh to try. In the past we’ve used barn lime to sprinkle on the barn floor after it was clean and before adding fresh bedding. Horse Fresh is 100% zeolite, which is a natural mineral that comes from volcanic ash. Don’t let the word “ash” fool you. It feels more like sand. It’s not at all dusty (like lime), so I didn’t feel like I needed to hold my breath when applying it. Here’s a video I created on Facebook Live while using it.

Because zeolite is not hard on your skin and lungs like barn lime, I’m planning to add zeolite through the winter as I add additional bedding. This will help to neutralize the ammonia. I was always a little worried about doing this with lime because I didn’t want my goats to come in contact with it, so I’d only sprinkle it on the floor before adding a thick layer of bedding. (There’s a lot of disagreement over the safety of barn lime.) Zeolite is also compostable, so will be fine in our compost pile when spring arrives, and we clean out the barn again.

Don’t be confused by the name. Horse Fresh can be used with any type of livestock, including poultry. Although I got this bag for free in exchange for an honest review, I’ll definitely be buying it in the future.

 

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84 thoughts on “Stall Cleaning: A Necessary Part of Homesteading”

    • Glad to learn about this new HorseFresh product will be looking for it at Tractor supply. That lime dust has always been a problem. Also will try the layering that you use for bedding always thought it was better to clean everything out every day.

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      • We have plywood floors so I cannot deep bed which means every week cleaning out the barn & adding shavings & straw. Is there an easier way?

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        • Plywood floors in general are a bad idea because the constant moisture from the urine will cause them to rot within a few years. I wish I had better news for you.

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          • What is the person with the plywood floors put some rubber mats on it similar to what you might put in a horse stall. And then you straw and bedding over that?

          • That would cause the wood to rot even faster because the mats would trap the moisture from the urine. We have a stall with a concrete floor that has mats on it (left from the previous horse owner), and the concrete under the mats is always soaked because the urine runs off the mats and then gets under them.

          • Urine will run off the mat and get trapped between the mat and the floor. It won’t help and might actually make the floor rot faster because it won’t be able to dry at all.

          • I’ve used mats on concrete and dirt, as we have both types of floor in different stalls. If you’re using them on dirt, the dirt is absorbing the urine that runs off. It’s impossible for bedding to absorb all of the urine, especially if an animal pees on the crack between the mats. (Or maybe you don’t have many animals in there?) When we pick up mats off concrete, it’s quite wet underneath. In fact, we removed the mats from an area where it butted up against a wall that had drywall on the other side because it was channeling the urine under the wall and making the bottom of the wall rot and sending urine to the milking parlor. Since we removed the mats on that side of the stall, there isn’t any more urine going into the milking parlor. Basically urine flows faster than bedding can absorb it. Of course, some gets absorbed but not all of it before the urine can run under the mats.

    • I clean the barn daily. I do it while they are eating out of their buckets. I love it when I see my barn nice and clean. After one episode of coccidosis, I am actually really grateful to see goat berries. I only use bedding on their risers. (raised pallets) The ground is a truck load of sand brought in. We use lime on the wet spots on the sand. Then I put lime on the wet spots on the risers and then put new bedding on top. I love Standlee Alfalfa pellets, because their is a lot less dust then with other brands. So, because I trust Standlee, I would be willing to try this for fresher bedding.

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    • I presently clean outside goat stalls – my goats are not permitted in the barn unless sick or spoiled – I use PDZ stalk freshener and cat litter occasionally if things get real wet with Urine and don’t dry out during the day. I will look for Horse Fresh at my supplier.

      Reply
  1. It’s definitely not my favorite chore, we dont have a large goat farm, 17 does and 2 bucks but it does warm me up cleaning the stalls out and a nice little workout. We’ve been using barn lime so im curious about standlee’s product, I’ll be trying it for sure and since it’s safer I’ll most likely start using it.

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  2. I hate cleaning my chicken coop. Have to do it this week 🙁 I’m sorry that I’m not living in US of A because you won’t be posting a bag of Horse Fresh to me in Denmark, I’m sure. It’d be way to pricey, for you AND me (postage for you and import taxes etc for me) So I just want a little whine on chichen cleaning. And see f I can find something smilar at my local seller of things like that (Missing a word for such a place, too lazy to search for a dictionary).

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  3. Definitely one of the least desirable chores. I use sand in the chicken pens and hay with lime in the goat area. I have 18 goats and with all the rain we had in Oklahoma this year the hay and ground got soggy. We had over 40″ of rain in one 30 day period and the hay became deep bedding. When I cleaned it out I had to use lime to help dry the ground up. I am glad to hear there is something that is safer than lime to use.

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  4. Hmm. I have used barn lime and diatomaceous earth in the past but I like the idea of it being more like sand in texture/size…

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  5. I have been using Sweet PDZ in our bard for our little goaties. I’m willing to try anything once! If it works better I’ll be reformed!

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  6. We have 5 goats and 1 sheep. Cleaning their house is quite a chore, but I do it faithfully. I sure don’t want anyone getting sick. I would love to try this product. It seems like it would work very well!

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  7. We use the deep litter method in the winter with our chickens. I haven’t used lime. Horse Fresh seems like a good way to help with the ammonia build up. I especially like that that it is compostable! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  8. I just cleaned out the pens again yesterday, and I agree, it’s a necessary task, but never a fun one. Interesting product though, I may have to keep an eye out for it an give it a try!

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  9. Wow, thanks for the information about the zeolite–I was wondering if it was compostable and couldn’t get an answer at the feed store… Definitely going to try this product!

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  10. I’m so glad to hear there is a product that can help neutralize ammonia. I’m always concerned about the risk it creates for pneumonia in my goats.

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  11. We have chickens currently and use the deep litter system and this would certainly help wih the management of that litter system. We are also getting goats in the Spring and will face the challenge of keeping their barn clean.

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  12. We make biochar from all the sticks and branches around. I just started using it in the straw bedding in the overnight dog crates for the goat kids. It is night and day difference. As it is a dog crate the urine can’t even soak into the ground eventually. Then when I clean out the bedding each week , the straw /biochar can go in with the compost or over the garden beds for winter insulation. I will also add the biochar to the deep bedding in the main shed.
    Also will sometimes inoculate the bedding pack with sweet whey to introduce good micro organisms to help with decomposition. Keeps the bedding nice and gets a great jump on the final product that is great for the garden. Instead of waste, think of it as future soil building!

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  13. Reading about barn stall cleaning, and how everyone has a different method. The same is true for bedding. I currently raise ducks and chickens on my growing farm in central MN. I have tried everything from pine needles, straw, hay, and cedar bedding. I think for me what works best is good old fashioned hard work and staying on top of it.

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  14. Our Farm is in Southern Wisconsin. We opted out of the deep bedding method after the nasty job of cleaning out the deep bedding for a few years. We have Stall matting down over 12-18″ of limestone. Add a layer pine shavings for urine absorption with Stall Dry sprinkled for ammonia , that is spot cleaned daily and topped off again with shavings. The barn ventilator that we use to pull hot air out in the summer is set to run 15 minutes every 6 hours to change the air in the barn. The barn is not insulated except for the roof. We use Prima Heat lamps for the kids and supplement with wall mounted Quartz heaters for radiant heat should the adults start getting cold. The barn stays 10 to 12 degrees warmer than the outside temp. We can rotate doors open or closed based on temp and wind direction as the barn has garage doors on every wall. It is certainly a more expensive approach but the end result is worth the cost to us.

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  15. I’m glad to hear you talk about deep litter for goats. I use it with my chickens and have been trying it with my goats. I saw some of this product the other day at my local farm and ranch store. I’ll give it a try next time.

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  16. I’ve just used barn lime, I’d love to give this a try, Esp if you can sprinkle it on as you go. I worry about the amount of ammonia that is down close to their faces when they are in the bedding.

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  17. I am constantly trying new ways to keep the barn safe for my goats during winter. This sounds like a great product to use. I like that it’s compostable, since we carry all the winter bedding to the back 40 for compost. Thanks, Deborah!
    Meg

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  18. This is a great article! I am new at homesteading and it’s simple things like this that matter the most to me! I will definitely follow through homesteader on Facebook! 🙂

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  19. Using Standlee Flock Fresh in the hen house already. No odors at all. Using a poop board under the roost really reduces the poops in the bedding. The bedding is so much drier than when I just used pine shavings though. They keep it stirred up and it’s amazingly dry.
    Using wheat straw in the goat shelter. 5 dairy goats and lots of goat berries. Would love to try another Standlee product in with the goats!

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  20. Hi and Merry Christmas!
    Love your informative emails. Always ready to hear new advice on raising my ng goats. We love them a lot and strive to do the best we can for their health and happiness. Dont know if I am to late for the chance to win a free bag of Horse Fresh but will look for the product anyway.
    So from one Deborah to another, thanks for all those good articles and keep them coming!

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  21. I currently use Sweet PDZ. I’m sure contest is over but would love to try Horse Fresh as I shop at TS a lot. Is it available in stores yet? Can’t find it on TS website.

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    • This will also work on dirt, but since the dirt is already absorbing a lot of the moisture, you might not notice as big of a difference.

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  22. Been using Sweet PDZ for a few yrs now. Wish the tractor Supply here carried the standlee brand as they carry most of the other Standlee products. Will ask for it now though. Love using it. It’s also nice at times if you have a chance to clean some of the berries up before putting new bedding down. Just the piles. Not every berries that would be impossible. Otherwise I use the deep bedding also.

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  23. I have used OMRI-certified (organic standard certified) calcium carbonate lime in stalls and compost piles for years, and while it is dusty, it is not at all caustic. It’s basically chalk. I know hydrated lime can be caustic. Is there something I’m missing about the dangers of lime? I don’t leave it where the animals can lie in it, mostly to keep it our of their coats because it is quite drying and makes my skin drier after a day of spreading lime in the fields.

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  24. I need to clean out my stall monthly because I am keeping my goats in the barn this winter. We had serious problems with parasites and coccidia this last year. For now, I open up the large barn door to allow for fresh air on nicer days.
    Some Barn Fresh would be great to try instead of the dusty lime!

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  25. Sounds great! Would love to start using this instead of barn lime. Like that it’s good in the compost as well! thanks for the info!!

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  26. We have 5 goats and 1 sheep, all rescues. I clean out their goat houses daily, I rake out all of the wet bedding, sprinkle PDZ sweet lime powder and use waste hay or straw for new fresh bedding. I have asthma and always worry about breathing in the PDZ, so I wear a nose mask. I will try the Horse Fresh for sure if I can get it locally!

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  27. I currently use Sweet PDZ in my goat barn and chicken coop. It does a good job keeping down odor, but it is quite dusty. I would love to try the Horse Fresh!

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  28. Great article! We just cleaned out our chickens, ducks and goats stall this past weekend and I kept thinking that there has to be an easier way! So thankful for the helpful tips and I will be looking into buying or maybe winning (lol) a bag of Horse Fresh to try and keep things even fresher.

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  29. Interested to hear, Deborah, that you have both concrete and dirt floors—the pros and cons that I’ve read about are dizzying. We’ve created a 5 x 13 stall within our garage; it has a concrete floor. My hope is to bring 3 ND in only at night, because it is most secure from predators. My plan for every morning, year around—they will go outdoors to an adjacent lean-to and yard. And then weather permitting, on to pasture/woods. I live in Vermont.

    My question is about the indoor concrete floor. Two of the walls have a 16 inches cement block foundation, the other 2 walls are all pine. I plan to do deep bedding. I will try to find the zeolite product, but is it still necessary to have stall mats? My vet was concerned about their well-being on the concrete, even using stall mats. The ‘room’ has plenty of ventilation.

    Thank you, in advance, for your comments.

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    • I don’t understand your vets concern about concrete, “even with stall mats.” I do not use stall mats with my goats — other than one stall that had them left over from the previous owner. I have seen no reason to get more. Basically I’ve seen no difference in the goats that go into the stall with mats and the rest of the stalls. Typically horse people use stall mats to remove some of the stress of standing on concrete, which is not an issue for goats, which weigh less than 1/10 as much as a horse in most cases.

      My only concern about the plan you mention is that your pine walls will absorb urine and other moisture from the bedding. At a mimimum, it will stain it so that it’s darker where the bedding is up against it. Our walls are cheap particle board and through the years we’re seeing them break down gradually. I’m assuming your walls are good, sturdy, solid pine, so that probably won’t happen, but just thought I’d mention it in case it’s plywood or something less solid.

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  30. Currently use barn lime when needed, but definitely looking for a safer alternative. Will be looking for Horse Fresh at Tractor Supply!

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    • We have mostly concrete, but I like dirt. If I didn’t have concrete, I would not spend the money on it unless I had tried the dirt for a couple of years and realized that there was something about my particular situation that made dirt undesirable. For example, the stalls were flooding, so the floor also needed to be raised.

      Reply
  31. I currently use PDZ stall freshener and would like to give Standleee Horse Freshener a try but my local Tractor Supply doesn’t carry it 🙁 I bed my goat stall, which has a dirt floor, with pine shavings.

    I feed Standlee products and think the company sells high quality feed.

    Reply
  32. I like the idea to use some of the volcanic ash so that you can control some of the smells. My brother is buying a property soon and wants to make sure the animals on it are well taken care of. I think it’s a great idea to use natural materials so that the animals aren’t injured after ingesting some of the supplies.

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  33. I have 2 goats (wethers) and 2 dogs in the small barn…a converted one stall garage) who presently have +/- 3 acres of fenced area to play/work in. I sweep the dirty area of the barn each day except for the 5’x8′ bed…plywood on pallets on 2×4 beams covered with a stall mat…deep litter there with pine shavings. I also use Stall Dry. A worker at Southern States told me about when she met a guy at a livestock event, he demonstrated the difference between PDZ, Stall Dry, and lime. After dipping her finger into ammonia she
    alternately stuck it into each item listed. Stall Dry was the only one of those 3 to stop the smell. Great stuff!
    My problem is the outside area beyond the barn. I try to sweep the immediate area free of all those little poopers, but rain and snow stop the process and the area becomes quite mucky! Should that not bother me? I’m new to this, 3 years. The yard is on a slope in a pine forest…no grass there…only a raised platform for them share.

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    • I’m not entirely sure what you are asking about, but I wouldn’t worry about poop outside, especially not from two wethers.

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  34. We are just starting out on our farm. We have no clue what cleaning out the barn entitles but we are willing to give Horse fresh a try.

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  35. Deborah- do you still recommend horse fresh in goat stalls? I have been using line but I don’t like the fact that it’s dusty for my own health and for the goats.

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  36. We have colder winters here in WI and I like to use the deep bedding. Our problem is that mites come with the straw and they are so difficult to get on top of. Do you have suggestions for ways to avoid the mites?

    Reply

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