Fresh Barns Are Healthier

Many people are unaware that one of the primary causes of the horse respiratory disease?”heaves,” or recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), is exposure to bacterial products in the air, particularly from urine ammonia. This is especially problematic for horses that lie down frequently or those that are closer to the ground, such as foals and ponies. Anything you can do to reduce the ammonia is a step in the right direction.

Obviously, daily cleaning of your horse’s stall and removal of the wet spots is important. In addition, your barn should have maximum ventilation, with open doors and windows and high ceilings.However, even if you thoroughly clean out the urine-soaked areas in a stall, there’s no way you can get every bit of it out of your stall. And, if you have a dirt or clay floor, the urine seeps into that, too.

Lime is a fine white powder and was heavily used years ago for odor control. You need to look for calcium carbonate (barn lime, garden lime). It will control odors and help dry an area, but it can form a slippery surface. Its greatest advantage is price, at about 5? a day. Its disadvantage is that it’s very dusty and easily gets into the air. The fine powder from lime can irritate respiratory tracts and eyes of horses and people.

Pine oil is another “oldie but goodie” that is relatively inexpensive. A gallon of pine-oil disinfectant/cleaner/deodorizer is about $17. Mix 3 oz. to 1 gallon of water and sprinkle it with a garden sprinkler. Pine oil is a great odor controller, but it won?t dry the stalls. Be aware that it can cause respiratory and skin irritation as well.

Plain clay non-clumping kitty litter will dry the horse’s stall, but it won?t deodorize it. We’ve also tried clumping kitty litter, which absorbed urine better, but it’s much more expensive. Avoid organic litters that may be made from corn and wheat byproducts that might tempt the horse to eat it (bad, because it could be moldy).

You?ll use about a pound of kitty litter a day, at about 20? a pound for the generic clay. You can mix it 50-50 with lime to increase its odor control. (Don?t use scented kitty litter, because some horses may be sensitive to it.)

Baking soda is fine as a deodorizer and will also absorb some moisture. It’s inexpensive, and we keep it around the barn for a variety of tasks, including cleaning out the water tanks, buckets, bits and stirrups. However, like kitty litter, it can become slick.

Commercial Choices.

The number of commercial products on the market is growing for good reason. They are more powerful in odor control and, usually, reducing wet spots.

Absorption itself helps reduce ammonia by making the urea less available to bacteria. Stall fresheners are often mineral-based, usually clays, like zeolites or montmorillonites. In our previous trial, testers found that zeolites gave better ammonia control, while the montmorillonites absorbed more moisture.

Many products, like Stall Dry Plus, are also antimicrobial, which means it works to kill the bacteria. Sprays, on the other hand, use live bacteria or enzymes to eat up the ammonia, which stops the smell.

Field Trial.

In May 2008, our field trial included six stall deodorizers. Since that time, we found two new contenders that piqued our curiosity, and we decided to see how they stacked up. The test barn used wood-pellet bedding on stall mats, and the horses were in the barn approximately 16 hours a day.

All the products claimed to decrease odors, while several also offered help with moisture absorption. The goal with the moisture-absorbing products was to reduce the amount of dirty bedding that needed to be removed. Stalls were cleaned daily with all manure and saturated wet spots removed.

We found the sprays were a bit more work to use than the powders. They were easiest if you got a one-gallon pump garden sprayer and mixed up a batch from concentrate. Using the ready-to-use trigger sprayers became tiresome quickly. With the pump sprayer, we could get a couple of stalls done quickly.

The wet spray was also a big help with wood pellets, which can get dusty if they?re too dry, and eliminated wetting dusty pellets. The spray products, obviously, don’t absorb moisture.

However, we found liquids were more versatile than the dry products. We could deodorize virtually anything. We sprayed the stall bedding, walls, barn aisle, wheelbarrow and pitchforks. Within days of starting to use Bye-Bye Odor, our barn smelled terrific. The downside, of course, is that this method won?t work well below 32?F.

With the dry products, we used a plastic cup and sprinkled close to the surface of the stall. We concentrated on wet spots and usual manure areas, then bedded over it.

The fine powders could get dusty quickly, so we tended to bend down, closer to the surface when we sprinkled the wet areas. We didn’t have any difficulty with slick spots in our stalls with any of our dry products. They all did a good job reducing odor, but they varied in their ability to absorb moisture. We saw a difference in decreased bedding use from negligible to nearly 50%.

Bottom Line.

The amount of deodorizer needed depends upon the individual horse’s habits. Messier horses need more product.

Although odor control is the No. 1 priority, we are thrilled with anything that helps reduce bedding, not just because of the cost, but also because the more you toss out, the more you need to get rid of. If the product also helps composting that’s another plus.

Our previous top pick, Stall Fresh, remains a recommended product, however in bedding reduction it was no match for Odor-No-More. We decreased our bedding use by nearly 50%. That fact was re-affirmed when we stopped using the product and quickly noticed a huge difference in the stall wetness and bedding use.

Our Best Buy is Bye Bye Odor. It’s inexpensive and easy to use in a garden sprayer. A mixture of 2 ? gallons lasted us about a month on one stall, making the cost pennies per day. If you’re looking for an economical deodorizer that’s dry for winter months, try the Kaeco Stall Power.

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