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Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Advantages of a DIRT Barn Floor. (LaCroix Alpacas)

LaCroix Alpacas farm: 1870 bank barn.

LaCroix Alpacas farm: 1870 bank barn.

Our farm has a large bank barn with a dirt floor. I like that dirt floor! I didn't at first because I compared my dirt floor to more modern concrete floors; but time convinced me that a dirt floor is a pretty nice asset.

Why? Well, a dirt floor is dry and dryness promotes desiccation and desiccation is the enemy of parasites and parasites are the source of a multitude of problems. And so I learned that the immediate advantage of a dirt barn floor is...

1. It is not an unintended host for parasites.

There are, however, other advantages.

Years ago, I read that alpacas are more inclined to poop in a specific area in a barn if that area is large enough and surrounded by a low barrier. I have used old, discarded barn beams that are about 8-10" thick to create that area, but any lumber that the alpacas aren't able to move is sufficient. Over time, a hole about 18" deep has formed in the poop area. Into this hole, I daily sweep the poop and urine-soaked sawdust/lime with a shrub rake and a garden hoe. When the hole is full enough, I simply shovel the poop out and into handy buckets. When a cria is born, I cover the hole for 2-3 days with whatever pieces of lumber are handy, so that the cria is protected from falling into the hole while it is gaining strength in its legs. Since the alpacas poop on the side of the hole, the cover is not in the way. And so two more advantages of a dirt barn floor are...

2. A hole will naturally form in the dirt of the floor, further encouraging the alpacas to poop in a small area.
3. The hole consolidates the poop so that I am able to collect it in buckets once or twice weekly, instead of a daily collection of poop.

And there is two more advantages to having a dirt barn floor.

4. It is much warmer during the winter than a concrete floor is!
5. It is always dry for the comfort of the alpacas.

Are there any disadvantages? One comes to mind. When the weather is very, very dry, raking the floor with either the lawn rake [for large areas] or the shrub rake [for the poop area] will stir up dust. However, I am able to compensate for the dust by turning on the barn fans, if necessary. So even this isn’t really a disadvantage.

Yes, I do like my dirt barn floor!

Note: In the immediate poop area, I use pulverized limestone covered with sawdust. The poop that is swept into the hole is also sprinkled with lime in order to effectively mask the odor of urine.