Friday, January 18, 2013

Back to farming...deep litter, 90 days in.

 I'm trying a new management technique for the pig barn, deep litter bedding.   These are pictures after 90 days on the litter.  

Pigs like to pick an area to dung in and use that area exclusively.  In this case they picked a spot near the center of the barn, and what formed is pictured above; it's a fairly liquid mix of urine and dung, about 10x10'
 Underneath the dung there's 6" of wet chips, and under that is completely dry.  The wet stuff is just right on top, about 2" deep.
 The overall penetration of the wet area is consistent across the entire dunging area.  There's about 18" of dry chips underneath.  So from the perspective of containing the urine and dung to the barn, just the wood chips do a pretty good job.  there's a concrete floor underneath these chips, so I can be pretty safe in saying that there's no manure that's escaping the barn.


 I chose to "turn" the bedding with my small backhoe.  The basic process is to dig a hole down to the concrete floor and then fill that hole with the chips adjacent to it.  To completely turn all of the bedding -- some of which was just wet with rain water that had dripped off the pigs when they returned from the pasture, and some of which was urine/manure - took about an hour.
 Once the chips were rotated, about 2 hours later you could see and feel the heat rising off the floor.  The turning reactivated the composting, and the breakdown was probably helped by the manure/urine.  A compost thermometer showed a temperature of 90 degrees 8" below the surface 6 hours after turning, and it seemed to be getting warmer.

 As part of turning the bedding we also added another 6" of clean, new material on top, which the pigs mostly immediately turned under.  They much preferred the warmer chips underneath.
So far I've put 250 yards of bedding into the barn.  I'd estimate that it's 20% broken down into soil at this point.  The mix is probably 5% manure, 95% wood chips and leaves/needles.  I'm surprised that the stuff is still composting away and generating heat, though.  Outside temperatures are in the 20s at night, low 30s in the day.

1 comment:

cowboyskitty said...

I am looking for ways to keep pigs here in western wa and came across your blog. Very interesting. You have a great journey happening.
A few questions. When do you expect to fully cleanout the bedding? How much of it do you think will be composted when you do. Where will you use it? Thanks K