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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