Deep litter for sheep...

Coolbreeze89

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Is it well ventilated? I have a 20’x24’ barn. Two sides are wide open. I have 10 ewes and 10 lambs, there is no stink. Their round bale is under the barn too so I have a steady supply of waste hay.
Not really - with our “frigid” lows in the 30s, I’ve kept it relatively closed up due to the 1 month old babies. I throw everything open during the day though. Their hay feeder is in the shelter, so they have that “extra” bedding added continuously, too.
 

Beekissed

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Ok, I need insight. 5 of 7 does have kidded, so I have 15 goats living in the area without DL. I’ve been using a layer of compressed pine pellets under pine shavings (no more leaves). The smell of urine is strong after just a week, even with trying to spot-clean. I know they’re pretty condensed, but 8 of the 15 are babies. They have a nice big run, but with a lot of rain recently, they huddle in their 10x20 shelter more than just at night. I’ve tried sweet pdz on the wet spots, but haven’t noted much difference. Once I work through the goat-only food, I’m going to let the goats and 3 lambs intermingle 24/7 and they can have, combined, (2) 10x20 shelters to spread out the stink!

I’ve been cleaning it out every week trying to combat the ammonia smell to avoid lung issues. Just putting clean bedding on top only hid the smell a day or two. What am I missing? This is getting expensive!
It's the density and particle size of your carbon you are using that is the issue. Pine shavings and pellets have a very slow compost time and produce a lot of ammonia on their own as they compost, let alone adding the urine to it. That mass can't breathe due to the particle sizes not letting in any air. Got to get some larger, woody things in there to introduce air into the layers....sticks, twigs, woody weed stalks, vines, straw in moderation, etc. In the absence of that, you may have to aerate that mass manually with whatever you have....tractor, skidder, chickens, pitchfork, etc.

Another thing is ventilation. Everyone feels they have great ventilation but mostly in the winter months people are trying to keep animals warm, so they don't want air to flow through the structure....but it just has to in order to move the humidity and gas up and out of there. Passive airflow is key, with good air in the bottom and bad air out at the top or sides. Animals get more sick from stagnant, moist barn conditions in the winter months than they do from drafts of fresh air.

There are two kinds of DL~one is a huge diaper that soaks up poop and pee until it stinks so bad it has to be cleaned out and one is a working, breathing and living thing that absorbs excess moisture, digests poop pellets as they fall into the carbonaceous materials, and are turned into composted material as they bind with the carbon.

I know that's all harder to do in larger barns and spaces unless you have access to and have stored plenty of various bedding materials with varying particle sizes and density....sort of what Salatin does with his barn. If you garden or know someone who does and grows quite a bit of corn, squash and pumpkins, all those stalks and vines are wonderful to put down in the base of the DL at the end of summer so you can build your layers on top of it. They let air into the bottom of the mass. Ramial wood chips are another good thing to store for mixing things up a bit...they have various sizes and density, so layering them in with spent hay, straw or corn stalks and shucks are helpful as well. Everything in moderation, in good measure and balance with one another.

It's a process, but once you get the hang of it, you'll never want to go back to the dirty diaper.
 

Coolbreeze89

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It's the density and particle size of your carbon you are using that is the issue. Pine shavings and pellets have a very slow compost time and produce a lot of ammonia on their own as they compost, let alone adding the urine to it. That mass can't breathe due to the particle sizes not letting in any air. Got to get some larger, woody things in there to introduce air into the layers....sticks, twigs, woody weed stalks, vines, straw in moderation, etc. In the absence of that, you may have to aerate that mass manually with whatever you have....tractor, skidder, chickens, pitchfork, etc.

Another thing is ventilation. Everyone feels they have great ventilation but mostly in the winter months people are trying to keep animals warm, so they don't want air to flow through the structure....but it just has to in order to move the humidity and gas up and out of there. Passive airflow is key, with good air in the bottom and bad air out at the top or sides. Animals get more sick from stagnant, moist barn conditions in the winter months than they do from drafts of fresh air.

There are two kinds of DL~one is a huge diaper that soaks up poop and pee until it stinks so bad it has to be cleaned out and one is a working, breathing and living thing that absorbs excess moisture, digests poop pellets as they fall into the carbonaceous materials, and are turned into composted material as they bind with the carbon.

I know that's all harder to do in larger barns and spaces unless you have access to and have stored plenty of various bedding materials with varying particle sizes and density....sort of what Salatin does with his barn. If you garden or know someone who does and grows quite a bit of corn, squash and pumpkins, all those stalks and vines are wonderful to put down in the base of the DL at the end of summer so you can build your layers on top of it. They let air into the bottom of the mass. Ramial wood chips are another good thing to store for mixing things up a bit...they have various sizes and density, so layering them in with spent hay, straw or corn stalks and shucks are helpful as well. Everything in moderation, in good measure and balance with one another.

It's a process, but once you get the hang of it, you'll never want to go back to the dirty diaper.
ok, this helps. So much of what you said is exactly what I’m doing “wrong”. In the original goat barn, I had great DL going with leaves, wasted hay, little bit of pine shavings, and twigs. I was out of all the goodies by the time I moved everyone to the “baby barn” so I just used the bagged pine stuff. I can definitely add in a bunch of smaller branches, because I cut Yaupon for my goats almost every day. I’ll make it a point to add in those smaller branches to the base to aerate. I’ll search around for more leaves and other stuff I can mix in (I have leaves left, but they’re out where the deer are adding their poo! I don’t want to add in their parasites). I’ll also quit babying everyone...;) I have two does who are definitely pregnant but I have no idea about dates...so I’m keeping everyone in the area where I have the birthing pens with lights/heat available, and with things fairly tightly closed up (there are two areas for venting at ground level that the goats come and go through, but I’ll make bigger). There’s been a lot of condensation inside in the mornings, so I suppose that’s further proof I have inadequate ventilation.

Thanks a lot!!!
 

Baymule

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We spread waste hay on future pasture today. Some of it was quite wet underneath from the 7 1/2" of rain over the last two weeks. Part of the sheep lot is not under the roof and rain blows in under the roof in a few places. In the barn, there was no smell. In the lot where it was a little soggy, there wasn't any smell. Your nose will tell you if you are doing this right or not! LOL
 

Coolbreeze89

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Well, my barn is already smelling better! I managed to rake up enough wheelbarrows’ worth of leaves (and lots of small twigs!) to completely cover the barn floor. I then pitchforked the whole mess to mix in the shavings/pellets, waste hay, and the leaves/twigs. Now, 48 hrs later, zero smell even after a day of near-full confinement due to rain! I’m aerating a bit with the pitchfork every couple days since I still have pine stuff mixed in, but it’s just a precaution, not due to outright smell.

Thanks to you all!!!
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Coolbreeze89

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Quick clarification: now that I have my nice heterogeneous bedding, do I still “flip it” to manually aerate? It didn’t smell at all, til I mixed things around. Should I just leave it be? I was mixing just a bit each day, but then had newborn twins I was about worried about and skipped a couple days. I don’t let my chickens or pigs in that area yet due to my newborn kids.
 

Beekissed

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Quick clarification: now that I have my nice heterogeneous bedding, do I still “flip it” to manually aerate? It didn’t smell at all, til I mixed things around. Should I just leave it be? I was mixing just a bit each day, but then had newborn twins I was about worried about and skipped a couple days. I don’t let my chickens or pigs in that area yet due to my newborn kids.
I don't flip mine as I have aeration into the bottom layers. I just toss dry stuff onto wetter areas, capping off the moisture and ammonia into the mass. Do the same in the coop....each morning I toss dry leaves on top of the poop dropped under the roosts at night, which caps the moisture and smell under the top layer and allows any bugs in there to ascend to eat the poop without being detected by sharp eyes.

If you do choose to do some flipping to get overly moist areas some air, just toss some dry stuff on top of the stuff you turned over to cap the smells under there.

With the sheep pen I go in about once a week and redistribute the bedding. When I can't find any dry bedding to cap the more moist areas with, I add new, fresh bedding. I like to keep things dry on top, moist in the middle where sleep and walk the most.
 

thethinkingweasel

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I'm curious about this, because we've been trying to do deep litter with our sheep in pretty much the same way we do with our chickens. We bring our sheep into the barn at night in their own stall (this year we have 7 sheep). We use mostly pine shavings, though you're inspiring me to try lots of other things in there too. Unlike the chicken litter, which stays loose and dry and basically turns into dust, the sheep litter has stayed pretty moist and quickly becomes packed and dense. When I turn it over with a pitchfork it looks like mud and often has a smell. Are we doing it wrong?

I throw scratch grain in the sheep stall pretty much every day to encourage the chickens to scratch through it, but they can't seem to get below the top layer. Whenever I turn it over, they're all over it, but then it just packs down again in the next day or two. Is this what you're talking about when you say you're composting it? Do you let it stay moist and packed, or are you adding enough carbonaceous material to keep it loose? I feel like it would take a bag of shavings/leaves every day to accomplish that with what we have going on.

Any advice for this newbie?? :)
 

Coolbreeze89

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P.S. We have dirt directly under the litter. We used to have stall mats over the dirt floor, but we took them out at the beginning of this experiment.
There is a more in-depth explanation in an earlier post, but I think the key is to add varied, non-pine material. I was using compressed pine pellets and shavings and the smell was strong, even adding more each day ($$!). I raked up multiple wheelbarrows’ worth of dried leaves along with small sticks and mixed this into the pine. The difference is insane! I do not mix it up, as that just makes it smell. I sprinkle on more shavings maybe once a week? And just a light layer, not bags at a time. Next year, I’m stockpiling all my fallen leaves! I am a true believer in this method!
 
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