Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bedding Alternatives for Livestock

Since we started keeping animals out here at the homestead, I have tried to keep on top of the different options for bedding. We started out using ground corn cobs, which I've got to say I was not impressed with. They ended up making it terribly difficult to clean out the chicken coop on a regular basis. From there we went with the traditional hay and straw. That was getting really expensive. Later a company opened not too far from us selling recycled paper bedding. They had a couple different options, and their price was similar to the price of straw. Their two options were a diced phone book paper and a chopped corrugated box paper. We tried both for a while and found that neither held up as well to the animal waste, and neither created a nest my birds would use.
Not long after trying this company, we added larger animals-goats, llamas and sheep-to our farm. They *really* didn't work well with that sort of paper bedding. To be honest I was not happy with the paper dust that came along with it. We try to be green, but at the same time the happiness and health of my animals is more important, so back to hay and straw we went. They were the best multipurpose. I was able to barter for a lot of hay to use as both as feed and bedding this winter-or at least that was the plan. I soon found my hay "disappearing" from the goat barn. Hmmm. I later saw that is was the sheep, who never stop eating. The goats and llamas eschewed eating something they had slept on. The sheep-aw, heck why not? And they would go through a lot of hay that way. Straw is way too expensive to be putting down all the time, so I was searching again for something else to use. That is when I found the old paper shredder from my husband's grandparents. I just happened to have boxes upon boxes of their old documents that needed safely disposed of, and thus our use of paper bedding was born. This was shreds-which do work for nest better, and all the animals seem to tolerate well. I shred every paper that comes in the house anymore. Later, I also found that businesses will often give you their shred so long as they know it is going somewhere safe (for privacy purposes). I get bags from a local school for disabled children. Shredding paper is one of their on the site job training situations. I use a combination of a base of straw, then add paper every other day or so, and deep bed the animals-meaning I don't clean the barns out until it gets warm again. Once we are maintaining weather above 50 degrees F we will start cleaning out regularly to avoid ammonia. I am happy with our findings. Ah, and we tried sawdust, too, which worked well enough, but caked up quite a bit. Cost-wise it is far more frugal for us to buy one expensive bale of straw as a base on occasion and add free paper shreds regularly to extend its life. I also feel good in knowing that the shredded paper that often gets burned or thrown away will be aiding in fertilizing our farm projects, and is getting very nicely broken down with the rest of the bedding.
Our sheeps' figures thank us, as well :)

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