Deep litter for sheep...

Beekissed

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 3, 2008
Messages
2,181
Reaction score
1,621
Points
353
Location
mountains of WV
....anyone doing it?

Now, by deep litter I'm referring to a composting type of litter, not merely deep bedding that gets cleaned out in the spring and piled up to compost. I know a lot of folks use deep bedding in the barns for wintering livestock and that's not exactly what I'm wanting to do. That's a pain to clean out and try to keep dry...I have no desire to work that hard.

I've been using a composting deep litter in my coops for some many years now with huge success...keeps the coop smelling fresh, no flies, added warmth in the winter months and keeps the coop drier in the rainy and winter months, even though I have established a rain barrel to catch moisture and ADD it to the bedding under the roosts. I don't clean it out every year, though I do remove some of the well composted material in my "sink" or "mass" under the roosts to side dress garden plants. By then it's composted down to a fine powder or fine particles that is lightweight, easily moved and spread...sort of like Salatin's deep manure pack for his cattle, which he works into a fine and composted mass with the use of pigs.

I'd like to try something similar for the sheep to get a jump on the muddy seasons and how that all works in the pens. Each year I collect many, many bags of leaves to use in my coops, so will be utilizing leaves in the sheep pens as well. Right now I'm cleaning out the garden and a lot of the items from that will be placed in both coop and sheep pens. Twigs, bark, pine cones, weeds, vines, corn stalks, shucks, cobs and such will be added as the season goes along.

Since the sheep pens are much larger than my coop, I'll really have to be on top of scrounging enough material to layer in there, as well as adding a good mix of stuff that will create the right air spaces in the mass.
 
Last edited:

Baymule

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 22, 2010
Messages
15,946
Reaction score
37,254
Points
793
Location
Northeast Texas
I don't know if my lack of pick-up-every-poop-berry energy is deep litter in the way you describe it or just because it is vastly easier to throw in some more hay, pine needles or pine shavings. But basically I have a round bale under the roof with access to it from two pens. There is waste hay, short pieces they won't eat, and what they drop, poop and pee on. I scatter the dead hay in the barn. It is coming time to dig it all out, lime the bottom and bed with pine shavings. I clean it out before lambing starts, lime the dirt and deep bed with compressed bales of pine shavings. Most of the ewes lamb outside, only a couple of them lamb in the barn. I like a fresh floor for the lambs. I have hens that scratch up the floor of the barn. There is no smell, few flies and what we dig out goes directly on the garden or pasture.
 

Beekissed

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 3, 2008
Messages
2,181
Reaction score
1,621
Points
353
Location
mountains of WV
It is coming time to dig it all out, lime the bottom and bed with pine shavings.
That's the part I don't do. I don't do a yearly clean out, but allow things to compost in place until they are fully composted. Fully composted material should have good bacteria and fungi going on and nothing that should affect the livestock negatively.

It's a good preventative to overgrowth of coccidia in coops and pens, allows the soil underneath to drain and absorb moisture better and provides cleaner footing as the microbial life, bug and worm life in the soils underneath are constantly consuming the manure and excess urine.

I did this a little with my last sheep but lacked the ability to build the litter as deeply as I had wished...didn't have access to all these leaves, sticks, pine and such then.

I can't find any info on anyone doing this...just info on some Swedish folks using deep bedding type housing in winter, but not composting in place like I'd like to see. They also are using just a few things for material, not varied particle sizes and density of carbon like I find to be useful.

Bay, is your barn floor cement or dirt?
 

Beekissed

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 3, 2008
Messages
2,181
Reaction score
1,621
Points
353
Location
mountains of WV
It is dirt.
Does your litter get pretty moist over the winter months? Do you think it would get moist enough to keep the litter/bedding wet enough for composting?

Most of the area I'm using it in will be exposed to the outdoors, so I'm hoping I'll get enough rain/snow to encourage good composting in the areas that are adjacent but under cover. With only three sheep this winter, I doubt they will pee enough to keep the DL moist enough for composting.
 

Baymule

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 22, 2010
Messages
15,946
Reaction score
37,254
Points
793
Location
Northeast Texas
Yes, even with the dry heat we’ve had, it is moist underneath. The barn hens scratch it up looking for tasty tidbits. The top layer is dry hay. I just throw more on top. It’s getting pretty deep, waiting on cooler weather to clean it out. Lambing should start in mid October and I want it fresh with deep pine shavings. I have places for that Sheep compost to go!
 

Beekissed

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 3, 2008
Messages
2,181
Reaction score
1,621
Points
353
Location
mountains of WV
Got a start on building some DL in the part of the pen that will receive the most runoff from rain and the most manure and urine. I cleaned out the garden and placed corn stalks, sunflower stems/stalks, tomato vines, pepper plants, small sticks, weeds and grasses of all kinds in that portion of the pen.


All these bulky, dense and not easily composted items will help create air spaces in the litter pack and will greatly help moisture exchange , which will help with composting. Also placed some in the coop, as per usual for this time of year.

That stuff will make walking through there for watering and such a tad hard until I get the leaves, hay, bark and wood chips added to the pen but they will,ultimately, make for a better DL.

The chickens stayed busy moving that stuff around in the pen, helping to spread it more evenly across the space. They will be instrumental in turning a good bit of this DL for me throughout the year, especially when the bugs and worms move into the soils there to work on the manure and carbonaceous materials.
 

mysunwolf

Herd Master
Joined
Nov 23, 2012
Messages
1,164
Reaction score
1,359
Points
303
Location
Southwest Virginia
Yes, we did DL last season with a wood floor (bad news for the floor lol), and it worked great. The trick was to use mostly 100% sheep poop with a light layer of wood shavings at the bottom, then minimal bedding. The majority poop did all the work and started to ferment at the bottom, and all I did was stir a thin sprinkling of shavings in every couple months. The sheep stirred it up enough for us. Almost no smell and minimal ammonia.
 

Beekissed

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 3, 2008
Messages
2,181
Reaction score
1,621
Points
353
Location
mountains of WV
I've got a good start on the main pen, just from a lot of garden waste and hay waste from the round bale I got for that pen....a whole layer of the outside had to be peeled off to get to usable hay.

Soon I'll be collecting leaves to put in there. It's been REALLY dry here, dryer than normal, so haven't got the chance to see how the run off meeting this new material will act. Will it go under it or will it push it along with it? Remains to be seen. Most of the runoff has been diverted by a slanted sill at the gate and a trench extending off that.

If our winter is as mild as they have been lately, it's a good chance the sheep will get to range a good bit on pasture and browse, so they won't be subjected too much to penned conditions. If I had more sheep and less meadow, I'd keep them in winter pen to let the pasture rest, but right now that's not the case.
 

Baymule

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 22, 2010
Messages
15,946
Reaction score
37,254
Points
793
Location
Northeast Texas
My sheep barn needs cleaning out and starting over. I'll be doing that when it cools off. Too hot right now! I have plenty of hay to rebed the barn.
 
Top