Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Importance of Carbon on a Homestead

Ah animals.  They offer great entertainment, wonderful food products and many other benefits.  They also...poop.  A lot!  And while that poop can be a fabulous addition to the soil, it can quickly turn a farm into a stinky place if not properly taken care of. 

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not using our farm poop to its fullest potential yet.  I've been learning.  And I think the most important thing I've learned (due to many of Joel Salatin's books) is that carbon is essential. 

Poop has a lot of nitrogen in it.  That ammonia smell that can build up in the chicken coop? Yeah means there is an imbalance of nitrogen and carbon.  The solution?  Add some carbon!  On a frequent basis.

We keep bins of wood shavings by the meat birds.  Since we have to lock them up at night to avoid predator problems (mainly owls and hawks right now), each morning the coops are ready for a fresh dose of carbon.

 The wood shavings (which we got last year while cutting wood and running the limbs through a chipper) keep the smell down.  They keep the animals cleaner.  And they speed up the composting process! Win, win, win!!!

In the coop where our layers are, we use straw or hay that has been spilled from the cows.  Since we overwinter these birds, I think this works better than the shavings for providing a deep bedding routine.  It also allows me to use the same bedding in the nest boxes as on the floor, so I can dump the stuff from the boxes onto the floor and then just add fresh to the boxes. 

The cows also need carbon--once they are in the barn for the winter. Out on the pasture, they have the grass to lay on and that provides plenty of carbon without me needing to do any work.

 I almost always use straw for cows, but have read about using shavings with them as well, so might try that if the price of straw doesn't drop here soon. 

Rusty, our bull, enjoyed a nice carbon rich stall before being released to the pasture.
If you are experiencing some stink around your animals, your carbon balance is something you'll want to check out!

What is your favorite carbon rich bedding for your critters?

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