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Alternative Bedding

20 October 2020

Bedding livestock on straw is common place on most farms in Scotland but straw is not the only option.  There are numerous alternative materials available. With straw in short supply farmers should be thinking about whether they have enough straw to get them through the winter.  If the answer is no then be prepared to have to source an alternative now.

More rape straw is now being baled by arable farmers providing livestock producers the potential to use it a as bedding.  Due to its stalky, courser nature rape straw has excellent drainage characteristics and can successfully be used for bedding particularly when animals are first housed.  Used as a base layer with cereal straw on top the amount of cereal straw required can be reduced by 30%.

Wood based materials (woodchips and sawdust) are another good alternative.  Similarly, to rape straw woodchips can act as a base layer to allow moisture to drain away, leaving the top layer dry and reducing straw usage.  Woodchips are a particularly good alternative for finishers as the chips don’t cling and stick to cattle coats. Wood by-products (woodfines) are also worth considering.  However when buying in wood by products be sure to check that the material has been screened free from contaminants and is safe to use for animal bedding.  Recycled and waste wood products tend to be sold on a grade based level.

Sarah Balfour,

For further information on alternative bedding see:

Cows and calves in cattle shed with straw bedding

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