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Deep litter goats?

 
Lauren Dixon
Posts: 67
Location: Kalispell, Montana
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I have my goat pens currently set up with portable corral panels. These work wonderfully! My question is about the sheer amount of waste these little critters produce.

We have been working to create a food forest type setup on our property, which is already pretty heavily forested with doug fir, maple, various bushes, etc. My idea has been to methodically clear some of the native underbrush, trees, etc and replace them with edible varieties as we go, plot by plot. We are using the goats for the brush clearing, and they are a hardworking crew!

I understand the importance of keeping the goats clean and dry. I am wondering, though, if there's a reason NOT to simply put clean dry straw down on top of the soiled stuff, in effect, creating a layered in-place compost. I frequently clean out their shelter and put all new bedding in, but the pen outside the shelter is now about 6" deep in layers of straw, hay, manure, etc. I went to clean the pen today, and it was so wet and heavy in the under layers from recent rains, though dry on the top layers, that I could barely move shovels full. Also, I noticed that the under layers are warm to the touch, steaming, and composting quickly, perhaps better than my compost pile. Is it okay to simply continue layering clean straw on top so the goats stay dry, while allowing the under layers to compost over the winter? We intend to move the goat pen in the spring to a new area, to begin planting edible trees and shrubs where the goats have been. Will this layered goat compost be a good planting medium? Or, would it be better to shovel all of it out, put it on the compost pile, and spread it in the spring before planting? Thoughts?
 
Saybian Morgan
gardener
Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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I run my rabbits on deep litter and we plant straight into it with a cover of compost right from the pen. Mind you hay alone can't tackle the ammonia on it's own, you need 6 inches before the biology is at a critical mass to balance with the animals daily input. I lean towards korean natural farming in the arena of using basically molasses and whey to inoculate the base with lacto bacillus. This seems to wipe the ammonia right out and begins tilting the litter into the bokashi camp at that depth.

 
Lauren Dixon
Posts: 67
Location: Kalispell, Montana
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Hmm, interesting. Please tell me more about the korean method that you use. We also have rabbits, so I'd be interested in hearing more about how you keep them.
 
osker brown
Posts: 146
Location: Southern Appalachia
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I'm not a goat expert, but one of the major issues with goats is worms. Deep littering will allow the worm load to build continuously, whereas removing manure will help to break up their cycles and minimize the population.
 
Jay Green
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Actually, properly cultured and balanced deep litter will promote the growth and population of beneficial bugs and nematodes that prey on the parasite larvae...90% of their live is lived outside the mammalian host, so using beneficials to consume the larva is a great idea. I used deep litter for my sheep's winter quarters and found it most satisfactory.

They stayed dryer, the odor and wetness was controlled, the litter was well composted and ready for the garden in the spring and the soils under the litter were healthy, spongy and ready to accept reseeding as soon as the sheep and litter were removed from the sacrifice area. Grew quickly and thickly in to lush green clover and grass and was utilized as graze afterwards.

I say go for it....Salatin uses the same system for his cattle with good effect.
 
Clifford Gallington
Posts: 94
Location: Kansas
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I would not worry to much about the goats I am assuming the shed has ventilation
 
osker brown
Posts: 146
Location: Southern Appalachia
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Jay Green wrote:Actually, properly cultured and balanced deep litter will promote the growth and population of beneficial bugs and nematodes that prey on the parasite larvae


Cool, so what do you consider properly cultured and balanced? Are you inoculating with something?
 
Jay Green
Posts: 587
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If the floor of the shelter is soil, the layering of manure and carbonaceous materials on that surface will make for a good binding of nitrogen to carbon, coupled with microbe life in the soil to slowly build a well balanced deep litter. If the shelter has a wood floor, one can inoculate their deep litter with placement of healthy soil into the litter. The key is a balance of carbon to nitrogen, dry material to wet, good ventilation all around to wick away excess humidity and ammonia released. Time and the beneficial insects and nematodes will take care of the rest.
 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
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This is our experience.....

In the past we have deep littered the geese, the pigs, the sheep and the goats. We still deep litter the geese - works fine. We still 'deep' litter the pigs though they eat lots of the straw so it's no really deep litter plus they don't poop/wee in their house. It works OK for the sheep as they spend quite a lot of time outside anyway and only use their shelter when it rains really hard or is freezing. But the goats - we no longer do deep litter. Because ours spend such a lot of time in their house - sniff of rain, puff of wind, not so sunny - they do lots of mess in there. It isn't a massive barn, just a little shelter following the goat-space allocation guidelines. We found that when they were all lying down in there then the wetness would wick up onto them unless the new layer was very thick, and that very thick layer was having to be topped up every two or three days and was using a massive amount of straw. Plus the level was getting so high that it was like climbing a hill to get in. Plus, their legs were sinking into it and they started being really reluctant to go in there. So now they have slatted wooden 'beds' with a thinner layer of fresh straw on that's renewed every week (the wee goes through the slats and so does a fair bit of the poo) and I swear I can see them smiling

But different things work for different folks. It's all about what works where YOU are. Guess that's permaculture.
 
Andrew Schreiber
Posts: 208
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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forest garden goat hugelkultur toxin-ectomy trees woodworking
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Hiya,

We do a seasonal deep litter for our goats. We clean out 2 or three times a year. and continuously lay straw material down, a few times a week. In the summer time, we feed cut grass from our orchard areas to the goats (because we don't want to let them inside there! but there is lots of good forage, and the other animals get greater access to forage) often, the grass they don't eat gets thrown into the barn.

As for parasites, my experience has been pretty good with this method. Perhaps it is because the deep litter is hot composting underneath the animals?

At any rate, It works pretty well for us.

Andrew
 
Carolyn Pindzia
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We deep litter during the winter. About twice a month, we spread some barn lime on the wet areas, and then add on more straw.
This does compost and produce some heat, and the lime dries out the parasites, keeping them down as well.
In the springtime, we clean the shelter down to bare dirt and spread a heavy amount of lime.
 
Ollie Puddlemaker
Posts: 148
Location: Houston, Tesas
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Lauren Dixon wrote:Hmm, interesting. Please tell me more about the korean method that you use. We also have rabbits, so I'd be interested in hearing more about how you keep them.


Lauren - Bryan McGrath of Prokashi.com has some great videos on his method of Korean Natural Farming. Go to http://www.prokashi.com/videos/ to view. By making up his 'recipes' you can enhance everything on your Homestead, I've been very pleased with my results from his advice and recomendations...
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Lauren Dixon wrote:I have my goat pens currently set up with portable corral panels. These work wonderfully! My question is about the sheer amount of waste these little critters produce.


Don't think of it as waste but as valuable nutrient processing. We use deep beds in the winter for our pigs and chickens. By spring they are wonderful composting piles. Push them up a bit and wait a few months for them to become a most excellent soil amendment. This way we have been gradually turning our poor, thin, acidic mountain soil into rich fields, orchards and gardens.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Would it be a good or bad idea to do any of the following to maintain a deep litter culture?

1) allow chickens access periodically to pick out excess insect life
2) introduce Black Soldier Fly Larvae (they apparently love the non-carbon component of feces)
3) introduce red wigglers (vermiculture worms)

My reasoning is thus: chickens will clear out insect populations in the event of imbalance, and are run on pasture a few days after ruminants in some paddock shift systems; BSFL will assist in the rapid breakdown of all the litter, but focusing on the wet, brown nitrogen in the feces, and they would provide food for the chickens; and red wigglers will eat the rest of the litter, also potentially food for the chooks. I can anticipate the need to drop bedding more often, obviously, if this were implemented, but I think the soil coming out of the paddock would be far superior to the conventional deep litter. But would this defeat the purpose of deep litter, or is it good to speed the break-down of materials?

A laterally related question is whether or not bokashi is compatible with any of the previous measures.

-CK
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Our chickens have full access to the bedding packs. However there is not a whole lot of insect life during the winter as it is too cold here. In other climates this would be different. Come spring the chickens do catch lots of insects there and out in the fields. Insects are their primary food source when available.

The bedding packs are rich with earthworms and red worms. These proliferate primarily in the warm months from about April through November, less so but still somewhat active in the winter since the bed packs are relatively warm. If pigs are in the area then they root out a lot of worms - a delicious treat and the chickens follow the pigs to snatch worms the pigs miss, or were about to grab.

I find that the bedding builds up about 2' per year but then composts down to about 3" or so before next winter, then again builds up two feet. I have on occasion not cleaned out the bedding pack in a shed for seven years. It gradually built up but much more slowly than one would guess from watching a single winter due to this composting action. When removed the material was extremely rich with worms and a very lovely soil amendment for our orchards and gardens.

I don't have experience with introducing soldier flies, we have sufficient natural fly populations. If there are no chickens in the area, rare, the flies to reproduce strongly. If there are chickens then there are few flies visible although they are there in reproducing in small numbers. The chickens constantly scratch the surface looking for critters.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/
 
Ollie Puddlemaker
Posts: 148
Location: Houston, Tesas
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Chris Kott wrote:Would it be a good or bad idea to do any of the following to maintain a deep litter culture?

1) allow chickens access periodically to pick out excess insect life
2) introduce Black Soldier Fly Larvae (they apparently love the non-carbon component of feces)
3) introduce red wigglers (vermiculture worms)

My reasoning is thus: chickens will clear out insect populations in the event of imbalance, and are run on pasture a few days after ruminants in some paddock shift systems; BSFL will assist in the rapid breakdown of all the litter, but focusing on the wet, brown nitrogen in the feces, and they would provide food for the chickens; and red wigglers will eat the rest of the litter, also potentially food for the chooks. I can anticipate the need to drop bedding more often, obviously, if this were implemented, but I think the soil coming out of the paddock would be far superior to the conventional deep litter. But would this defeat the purpose of deep litter, or is it good to speed the break-down of materials?

A laterally related question is whether or not bokashi is compatible with any of the previous measures.

-CK


My thoughts would be, to make up a foliar spray ratio of Stabilized LAB (lacto-bacillus) with Forest Bacteria and/or Fungi, maybe some Comfrey tea, too. Spray this over the deep litter area(s) on some kind of regular frequency. Doing so would cause a faster breakdown and avoid any negative pathology. The Stabilized LAB is the active part of the Bokashi, the deep litter becomes your 'bran'. The BSF would need to be contained, not so conducive to a deep litter run. Tho', I think, BSF are an excellent compliment to this arena, just in a different context.

 
Mira Morse
Posts: 13
Location: Mariposa, California, USDA zone 7b
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I like the idea of copying nature.

Since chickens are from the jungle, it makes great sense to give them deep litter. I've had chickens in deep litter for a few years and it works wonderfully.

Since goats are from rocky mountains, I chose not to use deep litter for them. I think they prefer hard surfaces for their feet.
 
Bonnie Johnson
Posts: 26
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I use a deep litter system for my goats for their winter shelter. They spend November to late April in the Winter shelter. I have a home made round bale feeder that sits in the three sided goat shelter. The goats eat the hay off
of the round bale and the feeder keeps all but the smallest kids that are born in the spring from climbing into the round bale feeder. The goats drop quite a bit of hay and being goats, they won't touch it once they drop it. I then
go in and use a pitch fork to move the hay to the sides and back of the shelter. IF there is plenty of dropped hay and things are dry in there, I will even scoop up some of the dropped hay and feed it to the horses, cows or pigs.
I don't buy bedding or add bedding for the goats. Before I put in a round bale, I peel the old nasty outer layer off and if the goat shelter needs it, they get that for more bedding or I use it to bed the pigs. The hay keeps building up in
there all winter and spring until it is nearly a foot deep in the spring. After I rotated the goats out onto pasture in the rotational grazing system, I will wait a couple months and then remove the deep litter and put it in a pile next to old pile.
I periodically remove nice soft stuff that the chickens scratch up and use it in the garden beds. The goats like to sun themselves on the big piles of old bedding and the kids like to play on them. The chickens get
lots of worms and bugs from around the edge of the deep litter all winter and they work the big piles too.

This year, I am hoping to rotate the pigs in there to loosen the deep litter up by throwing in some corn for them to root around for so it is easier for me to scoop everything out with the tractor.

I will be honest, Boer goats didn't do as well as they hated the wet and the snow;. The dairy breeds and my new Kiko goats will go out and graze in the rain and snow so I am going to switch to all Kiko, Kiko crosses and
a few dairy goats for milk. I sell a crop of whethers and excess doelings each fall to bring in money for hay and feed. The kiko and dairy goats seem to have kids easier and care for them better, I did not need goat coats or
heat mats this year to get kids through the cold nights. Most of the time they were too hot and would not sleep on the heat mats. Makes a big difference in time input

The goat shed is on the ground. The bedding is full of worms on the egdes when I remove it with the tractor. I find big balls of red wrigglers in there that moved in on their own.

I think deep bedding for goats can work, but it might not work for everyone in every situation. I am in North Central Ohio. We get quite a bit of rain. Cold damp winters and very humid spring and summers.

good luck,

Bonnie
 
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