In 2009, as we were completing the expansion of our barn, I mentioned to the contractor that I would be ordering 30 additional stall mats for the 5 new stalls. Mixed with a few expletives he asked why we needed the mats as we had filled and compacted the new stalls with a clay/sand mixture which he judged to be the perfect base for a horse stall.
Then, without a pause, he moved on to the flake pine bedding we had been using previous to the renovation. Didn't we realize, he asked, that the flaked bedding was not the best choicel In his opinion, flaked bedding had two major shortcomings. First it was nearly impossible to pick the manure without taking additional amounts of the bedding along with it and second it took forever to breakdown when spread on pastures or stacked to be composted (more about that elsewhere).
He then proceeded to tell me what we should have been using all along, Fine Bedding.
Fine Bedding, as we came to find out, is pine bedding made by an entirely different process than flaked. Instead of shaving, it is milled pine kurf. It has the consistency and feel of oatmeal, virtually dust free, and because more of it stays in the stall, very economical. It's has a higher absorption rate, cleaner picking and more rapidly breaks down when spread on pastures. When we compared vendors we decided to save money and purchase our bedding in bulk, 22 yards per delivery. We store it in a simple 16 foot by 16 foot three sided, tarp lined bin.
We deep bed our stalls to about 6 inches and pick the stalls 3 times a day. We remove all of the wet bedding which clumps and is easy to find and prick. We have even found a very efficient way to 'deliver' the bulk bedding to the stalls. We fill the front loader on our tractor with shavings, drive them right up the barn aisle to the door of each stall and unload them on a 6 foot by 10 foot light duty tarp. We then pull the tarp through the doorway, invert the tarp and spread the shavings over the stall. Using this process we can bed 10 stalls in about 30 minutes.
So, wonderful pine smell, greater comfort for the horses, cleaner picking, less waste, lower cost, better for the pastures and perfect for composting.
Early in the planning of our ring it was clear that we were going to need an irrigation system that would keep the footing soft and control the dust. I took the ring dimensions (112'x209') and proximity to the pump (40') and contacted several irrigation companies. After noting the pressure and the volume, they all determined that my only options were:
We never even got to the cost of piping, installation and controller would cost. Without these costly upgrades, according to the "experts" not possible. So I started over. My two problems, low water pressure and low water volume could be overcome by significantly increasing the size of the pipe and simplifying the piping plan. Instead of a separate pipe going to each "zone" with several heads on each zone, I designed a system with a single 2" pipe servicing all 8 heads in a closed loop so water reached each head from two different directions, with a separate low voltage control circuit wired to each head.
I located a sprinkler head manufacturer who specialized in athletic fields and golf courses who provided $30 rotor head which could produce a 55' stream even at my lower pressure. A week later, at a cost of less then $1000 we had a completed a fully irrigated Ring that rivals professional installations costing in the thousands of dollars.
Coming from South Florida, we were accustomed to large containers for stall waste. Storing that amount of manure, close to the barn did not seem to be a good choice. Our neighbor suggested a ground driven "spreader" and we tried that for a while but putting raw manure on our pastures was not good for the grass or the horses.
So we did what everyone seems to do when they have a problem and no good solution, we went to Goggle. Many web links and a few hours later we were surprised to learn that:
Everything we read pointed at Composting, a great source of nutrients. Unfortunately, it wasn't just one pile, it was many piles. Since it would take at 6 months before we had finished compost where were we going to put 50 tons of pretty foul stuff.
That is when we found the website for O2Composting.com. They pioneered Aerated Stack Pile Composting (ASP). The picture above shows the bin thirty days after it was filled and processed according O2's instruction. As you can see an amazing transformation has taken place and in the place of the raw horse manure and bedding has come composted material resembling "peat moss" which can be applied directly to pastures, flower beds and vegetable gardens.
Warmer southern climates make barn construction less complex. The tradeoff is the difficulty of keeping the barn comfortable on long hot days. While the barn roof is the principal protection from the sun it also become the primary source of heat in the barn and fans never seem to do an adequate job of controlling that heat. Most southern barn roofs are constructed of structural steel panels over wood framing. To mitigate the heating from sun exposure many roofs are finished with reflective coatings that does help but anyone who ever needed to walk their barn roof will tell you that they still get too hot to touch. The real problem is the underside of the roof is as hot as the top and in the case of our 60'x36' barn, that hot surface becomes a 2200 sq. ft. radiant heater. Using an infrared laser thermometer we found that the air within 12" of the underside of the roof was 160 deg. Fahrenheit
A little internet research led us to a commercial cooling technology called Evaporative Cooling. Used on large commercial buildings, it is accomplished by periodically spraying the roof with water. As the water evaporates on the hot surface the roof rapidly cools. This cooling translates to a 40-60 deg. reduction in the roof temperature.
Our system consists of standard pvc pipe and brass landscape spray heads all connected to a manual ball valve near one of the barn entrances. Whenever we sense the barn has become warm about 2 minutes spray on the roof and the interior temperature of the barn drops significantly. We can also judge that spray has been effective when we see water drip off the lower edges of the roof. That means that the roof is no longer hot enough to "boil off" the spray. Our next project will be to install a small, inexpensive timer on the feed line to automate the system to come on automatically every two hours.