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Using hay vs straw for deep bedding/manure pack  RSS feed

 
Posts: 5
Location: Southern Oregon
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Hi all, first post on here.

We've been using straw as bedding in the goat shed, and adding new layers on top as needed, letting the goats compact what's below and cleaning it out only occasionallyas it just composts in place. Does anyone have thoughts regarding using hay, rather than straw, for this purpose? Hay can be had cheaper than straw around here, and our neighbor down the road has certified organic orchardgrass hay that I can pick up for $1 less per bale than the straw bales at the feed store that have probably been sprayed in the field. I tried feeding a bale to them yesterday, and they aren't interested—they're very picky eaters. I'm considering buying a trailer load anyway to use as bedding, since it's cheaper and organic, but I don't know how well it'll work in a manure pack since it's got a higher nitrogen content than cereal straw. This particular hay isn't the best quality, so it's not bright green, but I don't want to end up with a rancid mat of material on the floor. We currently mix their wasted hay in with the bedding without issue, but there's a lot of straw in there as well.

Any thoughts?

Thanks!
 
pollinator
Posts: 2360
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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The difference between the two is that one has the seed heads harvested and removed.
Which is a good thing because most times I wouldn't want random seeds sprouting where I dont want them.

Maybe if I wanted chicken to pick thru it I would get it with the seed heads, or if I was feeding the dried grass to animals, I would want to give them the seed head for extra nutrients.

But the short answer is, I would get the cheaper version, if I am just getting it for litter/composting purposes.

 
Posts: 136
Location: Henry County Ky Zone 6
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I always use hay. Sheep are picky and leave the courser stems to sleep on. It does of course have seeds if that is an issue.
Have not cleaned their shed out for 2 years. Just have to keep adding hay on top. Plan on cleaning out this winter. Should have some great compost for next year.
 
Dan Johanson
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Location: Southern Oregon
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I'm not worried about seeds in the hay, just wondering whether or not it will throw the carbon:nitrogen balance off too much in the manure pack if I use a more "green" material as bedding.

Do you do long term deep litter, or are you cleaning out your sheep's area frequently and either composting it or applying fresh?
 
master pollinator
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You are fine using the cheaper hay instead of the straw. Depending on how deep the manure pack gets, it MIGHT heat up enough to kill the seeds anyway.

Myself, I used to deep bed, but when I got a new barn I designed it as a through barn and only for sheep, so I clean out frequently. I say "frequently" because even then it is only 3 times a week. As long as there is ventilation, neither is better or worse for the sheep.
 
S Bengi
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A bed made from woodchip would last the longest between changes because it has more "carbon".
And the thicker you make the more excess your layer of carbon the longer you can wait for it start getting stink/bad.

I wasn't too sure what you meant by "green" do you mean that the cheaper version is freshly cut and the leaves or still green and in the process of wilting.
Or do you mean "green" as in the seed heads have protein. And the carbon is in easy to breakdown/digest fat or sugar or carbs.
 
Dan Johanson
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Location: Southern Oregon
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I meant green in the sense that hay is probably more equivalent to freshly cut green material, rather than straw, in terms of its place in decomposition. It has a higher nitrogen content than straw.

As for woodchips, I'm not worried about making the bedding "last" intact a long time. With straw as bedding, it absorbs the urine and its high carbon content balances the nitrogen in the urine. It doesn't smell as long as fresh bedding is added as needed, because the nitrogen doesn't volatilize and escape as ammonia gas. My concern whether or not there was too much nitrogen in hay to keep a good balance, and to a lesser extent whether the reduced absorptive capacity of hay (vs straw) would make a difference.

I'm going to pick some up and give it a shot, I'll post an update in a few weeks once I've got a feel for how it's working.
 
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