I will dive in and say, yes, we deep litter during the winter. What does that mean? It means that instead of cleaning the barn completely every week, we let the ‘litter’ (hay, straw, pine chips) pile up in the barn. We remove really wet areas, especially areas around the doors where the girls are trampling in and out and mucking up the place. After all, I can’t just sweep it and mop it up, though I often wish I could! Letting the litter pile up has its benefits and drawbacks as does any method. Ultimately you choose what to do on your farm.
- Yay! You don’t have to clean the barn as often. That’s nice, especially when it’s so cold. With all of the time spent going back and forth to the barn to make ‘baby checks,’ the last thing anyone wants to do is clean, clean, clean in the cold weather.
- HEAT! Composting material creates warmth for your animals. If you pile up the ‘cleanish’ litter for them, they will lay together, snuggling in this area, and that will keep them nice and warm.
- Feed: If you are one of those people who believes in feeding a ton of extra grain to keep animals warm in the winter, I guess using the deep litter method could actually lower your feed bill, too.
- Ammonia: You will need to try to keep the ammonia smell down, which means reducing number of animals or allowing more air flow in the barn. You can get down on your knees and sniff. If the floor smells strong to you, imagine how your kids and adults feel when they have to lay down on it!
- Bugs: Lice and mites love deep litter as do some types of bacteria. Add mite and lice bites together and you have animals with a tendency toward anemia, so you will need to make sure you use diatomaceous earth or some other type of pesticide to keep the biters at bay in addition to making sure the animals aren’t being used as houses for pests.
- Wet areas: Wet areas can lead to problems like bacteria growth, which can encourage udder and feet infections. Keep an eye on udders, especially, for staph infection and mastitis. I would suggest using a different loafing area after milking to avoid problems.
All in all, it is your choice. If you are going to do it, just be aware of the drawbacks and stay on top of them to avoid health problems for your animals.