Wood, Pellets & Hay Oh My!
There are many benefits for adding a bedding material in your livestock pen. Bedding serves as a cushion from the hard ground or concrete, keeps your market project warm, clean and comfortable. When an animal is comfortable, they will spend time more time resting and growing which reduces stress and increases feed efficiency. A stressed animal expends too much energy staying warm and comfortable instead of growing and developing.
3 BASIC TYPES OF BEDDING
Shavings are typically made of wood are the most commonly seen bedding. It’s the highly absorbent, flakey light bedding seen at auctions, shows and in barns. It’s used for all species to create soft bedding and to absorb and control urination. They come in different flake sizes for different applications and uses. Shavings are packaged in 40 lb. bales of 2.8 cubic feet which will cover 12 sf with 3 inches of shavings.
TYPES OF SHAVINGS
Wood shavings come in a variety of sizes and materials. Different types of shavings are used for different species.
Pine & Cedar – Are best used for large livestock & poultry. Pine is the most common followed by cedar.
Aspen or Plant-based Paper Fiber Shavings – For Small pets like hamsters & rabbits, it’s recommended to use these products because they nibble and chew on the bedding and the pine & cedar can cause them both internal and external problems.
Note: Always use shaving products per label recommendation.
TYPES OF SHAVINGS
- Mini Flakes – is very absorptive and clean flakes do not get picked up during cleaning of the old.
- ECO or Medium Flakes – Absorbs well and adds more fluff to the bedding. This is the most common type sold at the feed store.
- Large Flakes – Great for trailer bedding. More fluff, easy to clean out and less dusty.
- Cedar Flakes – The aromatic qualities of cedar help to eliminate urine odors.
- Rice Hull Flakes – Small, dust free and prone to blow in the wind.
- Aspen & Paper Flakes – Small pet shavings
Pellets are made from a mixture of wood dust that has been dried and then compressed under extreme pressure. The low moisture content of the pellets allows the pellets to absorb up to three times their weight! Pellets are sold in 40 lb. bags and require to be watered down to make the pellets turn into sand like bedding. The primary benefits are as the animal urinates; the pellet material will absorb and expand keeping the pen dry and fresher between changes. They also resemble sand and the goats/sheep are less likely to eat the shavings and bloat.
Pellet Application Suggestions
Lay the sack of pellets flat in the stall. Use a knife to make an “x” on the flat side and peel back the plastic. Water the pellets and let soak in the bag for 10 minutes. Then dump and spread. This is much easier than spreading and then watering and uses less water used and the stall stays neat. Initially, add 2 bags for 12 square feet, and one bag as needed.
NOTE: It will feel wrong to be wetting them down with the hose, but it will work great! If the pellets do not break up when you rake them out in the stall, add more water.
WARNING – Do not leave the pellets intact and not soaked. If your animal decides to eat them whole, you may have a major health issue due to the pellet expansion in the intestinal tract.
Once raked out to break up any remaining pellets, it creates thick sand like bedding. They tend to do well in wind and in the trailer for hauling.
HAY / STRAW
Straw is the old standard for bedding. It is a by-product of the grain harvest of wheat, oats and barley. It is usually yellow in color and is very coarse and fluffy. It is sold in large bales weighing 100-125 lbs. 1/2 bale will cover 12 sf stall.
- WARMTH- Straw keeps livestock warmer in cold weather by locking in pockets of heat around the animal. Many cattle ranches who see freezing weather temperature use deep straw outside to keep their livestock warm.
- NON-ALLERGENIC- Straw is used for animals that show an allergic reaction to shavings. Sometimes an animal will break out in a prickly red rash when exposed to shavings. If this happens, hay may be a good alternative.
- DISADVANTAGES- Straw is not as absorptive as shavings.
- BREEDING PROJECTS- Straw is ideal for birthing as it doesn’t stick to the wet newborn babies.
- NOTE- Straw is not the same as Oat Hay or Alfalfa Hay! Straw is for bedding, Alfalfa/Oat hay is for eating.
Rubber mats provide a great, solid foundation for bedding. I prefer to use rubber mats for horses, goats and sheep as a base with shavings on top. Because I do not lock my horses up in their box stalls, I use rubber mats as the flooring and do not use shavings. This leaves a level, clean, dust and sand free area for them to eat. It’s also easy to sweep out.
BENEFITS OF RUBBER MATS-
- Keeps the flooring level – Animals tend to create ruts and un-level surfaces where they stand and move around.
- Easily cleaned and swept between bedding changes and other projects.
- Keeps the dust down while adding a little cushion to concrete or hard floors.
- Non-slip surface – if your pen is on concrete, mats help with footing.
NOTE – Rubber Mats are not suitable for swine because they root with their snout and they would be tossed around. Even as heavy as mats can be, I’m sure the pigs would like the entertainment value of tossing the mats about, but it would be a constant effort to keep them orderly.
For Livestock businesses who sell bedding supplies in your area, see our Resource Directory Tab or contact Pets-n-Projects for more information!