Ash: natural odor neutralizer

How is ash a natural odor neutralizer? Many are using wood heat in their homes, and outbuildings. Wood ash is the premier, natural odor eliminator in barn hygiene, digestive aid uses, and helps with parasite control. During the wet, and snow laden winter days, our herds can be held up in the barn for extended periods. Leaving us an odious mess to deal with. I repurpose the leftover ashes from our wood stove, as an efficient odor eliminator, with zero added cost.

Naturally, we only use COOLED ASHES, right? Otherwise, I would risk burning down the barn and the animals. How do you know if the ashes are cool enough? I insert my hand in the day old ash bucket. If it’s still warm, I let the ashes cool entirely before spreading them over dry hay. I have a secondary ash bucket into which I pour the stove ashes. The secondary bucket goes with me back to the barn. It is astonishing how quickly the strong smell of day old urine, is immediately zapped!

I will remove the areas with heavily soiled/wet bedding.  I then sprinkle wood ash over that bare area, and then top dress it with a thick layer of clean dry bedding.  Keep in mind that wood ash, if moistened/hydrated  is no longer plain wood ash. It will turn into a form of lye. Lye has many uses, and even used to make German style pretzels, and soaps. But it can irritate the bare skin areas of animals, their throat, and their hooves if exposed in high quantities for prolonged periods. So don’t go crazy dumping wood ashes over soiled bedding because you think it will save you time. Like lime, another calcium-rich product, wood ash has great utility in neutralizing odors, typically caused by stagnant, accumulated gassing- off of decomposition and bacteria. A history of why wood ash makes an excellent natural odor neutralizer.

My research shows that it is safe. Once again, there are many factors to this conclusion. Naturally, wood ash from pressure treated lumber is toxic. PT lumber is also advised against in uses where plants that will be consumed are grown. So take precautions on the type of wood that the ash came from.

One good paper to read is, Wood ash in livestock nutrition: Two different uses of wood ash in animal nutrition, by J.B.J. van Ryssen,  with the Department of Animal & Wildlife Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa.

“Variation in the concentrations of most trace elements in wood ash is even wider than that of Ca. However, it is suggested that trace elements in wood ash formed when combustion is at temperatures below 500 ºC have a relatively high bio-availability. Therefore, wood ash could be a valuable source of trace elements under subsistence farming conditions. Wood ash is an alkaline product which has been utilized in the alkaline treatment of roughages to improve digestibility and also to reduce the tannin content of feed-stuffs.”

If you’re wondering why your goats may be found licking up wood ash, consider the following: Wood ash is a nutritive source of certain minerals. My goats do lick the ash at times, and I also feed them chunks of charred oak or apple wood. It can have the same self -medicating, digestive aid effects of activated charcoal. Wood ash suffocates external parasites as well. So if you’re dealing with mites, fleas, ticks, etc. Sprinkled wood ash, beneath the dry bedding, is an added arsenal against those buggers. Be sure to check-out another Goat Your Land blog post on how to use sulfur on goats to repel ticks, lice and mites.

Happy herding, goaties!

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