You will hear plenty of discussions and questions about what are the best floors to have in your goat barn.
We don’t have wood floors in the barns, anymore. We felt they held wetness, the amonia smell, left a crawl space for rats to enjoy too much and rot out too quickly. They certainly did all that when we had horses in the barn.
The main barn has concrete floors which can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they are easy to shovel out and clean. When we have kids in the barn, that is every weekend. So much for needing a gym membership. If we have time, we can let the floors dry out some. If not, a good sweeping with a stiff corn broom will have to suffice, then layer a sprinkle of hydrated lime (we use a Valu-Village strainer for the sprinkling/spreading). Followed by a layer of wood pellets. There was a time when we used baled peat moss, but it was expensive and very messy, leaving a dust in the air, dirt on the goats and a film on the water in the buckets for days, despite frequent bucket changes and cleanings. And then we put down a nice thick layer of salvaged hay. We save the hay that is picked over by the goats and left behind in the hay mangers. When we clean the feeders out, we save it in an empty kidding pen. Purchasing shavings also proved to be very costly for that top layer.
The curse of the concrete floors is that there is nowhere for the ‘liquids’ to go, necessitating that weekly cleaning. The concrete floors can and will absorb some fluid and deteriorate the concrete floors over the years. How much, we’re not sure. The barn was built in 1986 and we’re just seeing some signs of this damage now.
The main addition had a dirt floor. When it was built, we dug out the floor area, down a foot and a half. We put in a layer of bigger rocks, then a layer of gravel, finally topped with sand. We have a large sand heap on the property, and will top dress the addition with more sand as needed. It gets cleaned out regularly in the summer, right down to the sand. Then a dusting of lime, layer of wood pellets and the hay.
But then comes winter…..
And we let the bedding build up. As soon as things start looking wet or too dirty, we add a layer of that salvaged hay. Both the goats and the livestock guardian dogs love the days we add new bedding. The goats use their little hooves to beat down and compress the new bedding. The manure and urine added by the goats to the bedding causes it to start composting on the lower levels, generating heat and giving the goats a warmer place to lie down. It is called the deep litter method, and you pay the price for it in spring, which seems a long way off in the depths of frigid January.
Then there comes the day that that price has to be paid, before you start hitting your head on the rafters and while the goats can still use the hay feeders properly. For us, today was that day. And hence the title, the ‘worst gym ever’! The compacted mass was at least a foot deep, more in some places and nearly hard as concrete in others. It had to be broken into pieces by pitchfork and wheeled out in wheelbarrows by hand. The last couple years it has been easier to hire young muscle to help than do it totally ourselves and we are immensely grateful. Having a wide enough barn door and a skid steer would be even better, but a little above our combined pay grades. It was a brutal job, smelled amazing and took the best part of the day, but we are happy to report that we are back down to sand once again. The roof is higher, the goats look smaller and the air flow is fresher, or at least it seems that way. We will be going to bed early tonight with a couple ibuprofens on board combined with a feeling of satisfaction of a job well done. Until next spring……
As for which as better, concrete floors or dirt floors, well, they both have their plusses and minuses, so pick your poison and save your money on a gym membership.