Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Farm Recycling

This is the other half of Farm Buddy's blog post, which I split in half.


Okay, so much for bone recycling, now let’s move on to livestock bedding.  Everything on my farm seems to be a cycle, so it is hard to know where to start, but let’s start with the Freedom Ranger chicks.  I set up a brooder for them in the sheep room, which is about fourteen foot by twelve foot. 

In the winter, my sheep and go in and out of this room as they please.  They always have access to go outside, but their hay is in this room.  I bed it with sawdust, but every morning, I rake out as much as comes out easy, which is probably a wheelbarrow full or two, and I use this in the area of the barn where the cattle sleep.  This might sound gross to you, but it isn’t!  Sheep manure is like small hard pellets, and there is a lot more sawdust in that ratio than manure pellets.  Cow manure, on the other hand, is downright messy!!

So, I go around with the wheelbarrow and shovel a scoop of the sheep manure/sawdust mixture and dump this on top of the soupy cow manure.  This keeps the cows dry, clean, and happy!  This mixture is less dusty than plain sawdust, which is better for the cows, and since it has some composting manure in it, it also gives off some heat for the cows.

Okay, back to the chicks.  So in July, the sheep and lambs have access to a much larger portion of the barn (and also the outdoors), so the chicks get their winter quarters.  I use a round-bale feeder as a brooder, which I wrap with chicken wire to keep them safe.  They also get sawdust for bedding.  This sawdust is from green lumber, not kiln dried, and is not dusty at all.  The chicks get LOTS of bedding because their manure has a lot of ammonia in it, and chicks are short, so they would be breathing that stuff, which is bad for their lungs.  The sawdust, along with adequate ventilation, keeps those chicks healthy and happy.
After about three weeks, I remove the brooder (made from the round bale feeder) and let the chicks run around the entire sheep room (I have 100 chicks).  After about another week, they are allowed to free range outside and then sleep in the sheep room.  All the while, I give them lots of bedding, so that their sleeping quarters never smell offensive.  If there is a bad smell, enough bedding is not being used.  After about twelve weeks, the chicks are processed, and although I look forward to chicken dinners, I greatly miss those chicks and very much appreciate their contribution to the farm.

Now, I am left with a sheep house full of chicken manure mixed with sawdust.  What is there to do?  Most would take this and put it on their garden or field, but I think I have a better plan.  I wait a couple of weeks to let things settle, and then I go in there with my rake (I use a plastic garden rake) and take out what is easy, which is usually about ten wheelbarrows or so, as remember I was very generous with the sawdust.  If I had just put this mixture on the land, I don’t think it would be that good, as the sawdust would probably just make my land more acidic than it already is.  However, I take this stuff and put it in the section of the barn where the cows will have access to in the winter.  This had previously been cleaned out down to the concrete floor in the early spring.  Now instead of having to buy ten pickup truck loads of new sawdust, I can use this recycled chicken bedding to form a foundation for the cattle. 

Remember, it will still be months before the cattle use this area, so there is plenty of time for this stuff to air out.  So every day, I take out a few wheelbarrows, whatever comes out easy, and put it in the cattle section.  Meanwhile, the laying hens get all excited about this activity and spend a couple of hours scratching around in that sheep pen, looking for any grain that the meat chicks might have left.  Their scratching action makes it easier for me to rake out additional recycled bedding the next day.  By the time I am done, I have probably taken thirty wheelbarrows of recycled bedding out of that pen, which makes a fine foundation for the cows when they return at the end of the grazing season. 

At this point, I put a few wheelbarrows of fresh new sawdust in the sheep room, and that area will be ready for the ewes when the lambs leave in the late fall.  I also use recycled sheep and chicken bedding for the pigs which get excited by everything!  Pigs, of course, are the ultimate recycling machines, and really everyone should have some, especially at Thanksgiving!! 

Hopefully all of this is not boring to you, but on a farm, especially a small farm, it is important to consider how to constantly work on improving the soil and land in a sustainable fashion while ensuring that the livestock are provided with the best life possible.

So there ends my blog posting for this pre-Thanksgiving time.  I hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving.  You can be sure I am thankful, especially for Bess, Scout, and Kelsey, and all of the other great animals on my farm, for which I am most grateful to have.  


  1. See Shelley, is that a cute puppy face or what?

    Good work on the part of the photographer to dig out those chick pictures. Thanks!!

  2. Wonderful post, since we raise our own beef and used to raise our own chickens, I can appreciate everything you do.

  3. RB: You are amazing. You need to have a few chapters in Kris' book!. I'm wondering where you get all this sawdust---green or otherwise.

    1. I get my sawdust from a local sawmill that sells rough-cut or green lumber. I never use kiln-dry sawdust or shavings, as they are way too dusty, especially for chicks. I have read that peat moss is great for chick bedding, but I don't understand how it could be, as it is incredibly dusty. If you don't have a mill near you, don't despair! Something else that makes spectacular bedding for all livestock is leaves!! Chickens, sheep, and cattle all love leaves for bedding.

  4. Kris, thank you so much for posting this! I recycled as much as I could, too... but this is great. I'm going to go read part one. I have someone who needs to read this one, too.

  5. that is fascinating! thanks for sharing.