6 Stall Bedding Options for Healthy Goats
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Farmers of old started using beddings in pens and coops to reduce the immediate effect of poo / waste in pens and also to insulate the stalls during cold temperatures. Keeping the bedding fresh will benefit your animals health and keep their home clean.
This article discusses several bedding materials for Goat stalls, some that should never be used, as well as how to dispose of spent bedding in a way to benefit the soil.
Pine Shavings are the most popular material to use for goat pen bedding. Pine Shavings are very absorbent, and a goats poo disperses well within the thin wood chips.
Shavings are easily accessible at most
all farm outlets and their light weight makes bringing home a package or 2 easy to get from car to barn. Shavings are easy to remove when they become soiled. Depending upon your season and the amount of time your goats are in their pens, you can use Pine Shavings for a few days to a week or more.
The cons of using Shavings is that they can add up financially if you are purchasing multiples bales each week.
Just like pine shavings, Straw is also a great bedding material for your goat pen.
One slight issue with Straw used as bedding is that Goats will sometimes eat Straw, and you don’t want that to happen (especially if they have pooped on it).
Don’t worry, not all Goats will eat Straw from the ground (in fact, most goats will not eat any feed off the ground), so you can use straw if it works for you and your Goats. The cons for Straw usage is that it can be very heavy to remove once saturated with urine or water. A Pitchfork and a good back is a must have.
Pelleted bedding (made of compressed wood dust) is mostly used in horse pens but it can also be used in Goat pens.
When they get wet, they decompress into saw dust, making urine or water spills a much drier result.
This bedding material is an inexpensive form of bedding that is highly absorbent, easy to manage, and unattractive for goats to eat. Pelleted beddings come in bags of different sizes and can be bought from various places near you.
Sawdust is probably the most popular bedding material for the largest variety of livestock. Sawdust is light, easy to spread, absorbent, and helps control odors.
Sawdust is also very advantageous to use as a spent bedding material (will be discussed later).
The cons - One usually needs to purchase this material in bulk, usually by the truckload. Storing a truckload of sawdust requires space in a DRY barn.
Cedar chips or shavings are good as a goat pen bedding, but it is not as
cost-effective as some other options.
The Odor control is wonderful. They are not easy to find in bulk, and tend to be much more expensive option of litter than other materials here.
While cedar chips are as effective as other bedding options, you should stop using it if you find your goats eating it because cedar can make goats sick if they eat too much of it. For this reason I do not recommend using it.
Sand or sandy soil is great for drainage. It blows out well, and rakes well. It can be used as the main bedding - or as a under other bedding amendment for drainage.
We are located in Central Florida, so Sand is easily accessible to us. We use it as our Main Bedding in our stalls. We have found that it drains very well, and that poo rolls right out of it with a leaf rake and a dust pan. It is cooling in the summer and warm in the winter, and also gentle on the joints of our larger Goat ladies. With sand, you do not have to change your bedding often, but you still have to scoop out poop regularly.
Sand is SIMILAR to Sawdust the cons - One usually needs to purchase this material in bulk, usually by the truckload. Storing a truckload of sawdust requires space in a DRY barn, and sand is heavy to shovel into stalls.
You should use the material that works best for you and your goats.
Goats PREFER to Rest UP OFF of the Floor
Goats are smart animals, and were created with natural instincts when it comes to keeping themselves from harm. A dirty, filthy stall pen full of urine and poo is a dangerous breeding pit for live microorganisms and bacterial infectiousness that can cause serious health issues to a Goat.
A Goats natural instinct is to paw at the ground before they lay down to rest,
clearing away poo or debris. If available - a Goat will always choose a higher spot that is up off the ground.
Here at the Dairy, our goats are milked 2x a day, which can increase the possibility of a partially open milking teat to exposure to dirt. If that happens with a Dairy Goat that decides to rest on a dirty part in her stall, the invitation for bacteria to travel into that half open teat is real and can thus cause serious infections in her udder. Clean Stalls and Resting Areas are extremely important for Lactating Animals like our Dairy Ladies.
We like to use Pallets / Skids / Rubber Stall Mats - and we keep them swept off daily.
Our Goats are only confined to their stalls during the Milking Sessions, ( 2-4 hours daily)
The rest of their day and night are spent in open fields with rain / wind protective stables.
Our Fields are Blown each week with a Leaf Blower, removing any old hay that could stack upon itself, removing dried goat poo balls, and keeping the sands dry and clean.
A Happy Goat is a Healthy Goat !
DANGEROUS Bedding that You Should NEVER Use
A Definite NO -- Corn Cob Bedding
Corn cob is sold as somewhat of an all-purpose Pet bedding
Corn cob can become saturated with moisture and is hard to dry out, resulting in it growing mold and other harmful bacteria.
There have also been numerous studies showing corn cob bedding can have dangerous levels of endotoxins which are toxins that are released when a substance disintegrates.
These are a NO - NO - NO for Goats for many reasons - Goats will nibble and eat anything that they choose, especially items of a corn nature - and these crushed corn cobs can choke them, as well as accidentally introduce mold and bacteria into their delicate rumens - these can kill them.
Another Definite NO -- Landscaping Nuggets, Mulch and other Landscaping Materials are sprayed with Strong Chemicals to keep them from breaking down with the affects of the weather, moisture, rain, and general decomposition.
These are a NO - NO - NO for Goats for many reasons - Goats will nibble and eat anything that they choose, and this type of commercial wood mulch can kill them.
OTHER Dangerous Bedding Items :
NO NO NO Plastic, Rubber, Fabric Materials, Fibers. Chips, or Strings.
If a Goat is curious enough (or bored enough) to nibble or eat them - they can die.
NO NO NO Sharp Rocks or Tiny Pebbles that can cut their foot pads or lodge into the sidewalls of their delicate feet. Ask any Farrier about the items they have tried to remove from the soles of livestock foot pads, glass, nails, rocks, and sharp wood skewers, just to name a few.
What Can You Do With "Spent" Bedding?
If your bedding is spent (i.e. you have used it in the pen and it is time to dispose of it), can it be reused? What can you do with it?
Mulch your Garden Plants If you use spent bedding materials as a Nurturing Mulch for your plants, they will serve as both mulch and a source of nutrients. (due to the amount of manure present).
If you want to use spent bedding as mulch, you should spread the material under the sun and wait for a week (at least) for the material to become dry and well-rotted. When spreading the bedding material as mulch, spread it evenly over the soil nearest to the base of your plants, without touching the stems of your plants.
Mulching conserves water and keeps their roots from drying as much as they could without this blanket of protection.
Soil Amendment A soil amendment is any product or material that can be worked into the soil to improve the quality of the soil. Some soil qualities that soil amendment can improve are:
Soil water drainage ability
According to the material used, most spent beddings can improve one or more soil qualities. The most common quality that soil amendment can improve is the availability of nutrients. ( the good stuff! )
Since spent bedding materials are full of manure, you can use them to amend the soil. When amending the soil, work the spent bedding into the soil and then wait for two to three weeks before you plant in the soil ( you need time for the material to decompose before you can use the soil for planting ). Most people bury spent bedding in the soil before winter and then plant in the soil in spring.
Composting As you may have already known, compost is any material that is made by decomposing biodegradable waste materials such as food waste, hay, straw, etc. Compost is used to amend the soil. Spent bedding materials are really great for compost because people use one part nitrogen ( fresh or green materials ) with four part carbon ( dry or brown materials ). Spent bedding is full of carbon materials ( i.e. the bedding material itself ) and some manure. To make great compost, mix some unused bedding material ( or any dry material such as dry leaves ) with your spent bedding material and then keep the mixture in your compost bin. Remember to mix, turn, and water your compost regularly to aerate it and maintain moisture.
4 Best Bedding Amendments to Keep Your Goat Pen Clean
Bedding amendments are materials to add to ( not replace ) your goat pen bedding to improve one or more qualities.
Lime to Reduce the Effects Ammonia Lime is a great material that quickly absorbs ammonia. With lime below ( or mixed with ) your bedding material, you will notice fairly quickly that the smell of the ammonia from your goats’ urine is not so bad. ( your goats will thank you too ) Lime does not just reduce the smell of ammonia, it also reduces the negative health effects of ammonia if left for long. ( healthier goats and humans alike )
Rounded River Rock for Easy Drainage of Water Rounded River Rock ( or gravel that is Not Sharp or Tiny ) and other stones permit easy water drainage. To use these safer gravels, place them below the bedding material. If you like, you can bury them ( or mix them ) with the soil below the goat pen. Since gravel is hard and large, it aerates the soil, therefore allowing water to drain more easily.
D E - Dry Stall for Various Functions Just like lime, dry stall aka D E ( Diatomaceous Earth ) attracts ammonia and reduces its effects. Dry stall also keeps your goat pen dry and reduces worm loads as well as some diseases. You can easily get dry stall from gardening shops nearby. Choose "Food grade" DE for safest results. Note that Diatomaceous Earth is completely safe for use by humans and animals.
Sand for Easy Drainage of Water Just like gravels, sand (i.e. sandy soil) helps to reduce puddles of urine / water and aids in the drainage of liquids. If you remember, sand was listed as a bedding material. You can use sand as your bedding material, or you can place sand just below other preferred bedding materials. You should select the amendment that works best for you and your goats.
As you already know, bedding helps your goat pen by insulating it and reducing smell and harmful fumes. Some of the best materials to use as bedding are wood chips, sawdust, pine shavings, etc. Keeping stalls clean keeps your Goats happy and healthy.
You can also amend your bedding with any material listed in this article. If you like, you can reuse your spent bedding by using it as mulch in your garden, compost, soil amendment, etc.
Bedding For Goats
Bedding is more important for a healthy goat then most people would think of at first consideration. It serves a number of purposes including providing a comfortable material to lie on, keeping the goats warm and keeping them away from draughts.
The bedding must be completely mucked out periodically, which involves the complete removal of all bedding. The entire living area will need to be cleaned with bleach at this time.
There are a number of possible materials that can be used, including: straw, wood shavings, wood pellets, sand, bark, corn stover which is husks and stalks, chopped corn cobs, peanut hulls, oat hulls, dried leaves and shredded paper without ink. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.
In the end, it usually boils down to what is available in your area and the associated costs. Remember though that the materials have to have a good quality because goats tend to eat at least a little of the bedding.
It is very important to maintain the bedding as dry as possible. Wet bedding will mold and then turns into a source of respiratory problems. It will also no longer keep the goats warm. Here are four tips to achieve this goal:
(1) Keep the goat's drinking water outside, so that it isn't knocked over or spills onto the bedding.
(2) Also, put the bedding on top of pallets, so that urine and droppings will fall through and leave the bedding relatively clean.
(3) Remove wet areas and droppings from the bedding daily and replace with some fresh bedding. This will keep the bedding fresher longer.
(4) A very good, inexpensive option for bedding is a bottom layer of sand to absorb the urine and a top, thick layer of straw.