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GoForAGallop
Oct. 26, 2009, 12:42 PM
Aside from hay, bedding is my largest expense in regards to the horses. They stay out 24/7 in the warm months, but once it starts getting cold, they come in at nights. And two of the three are MESSY, so I tend to go through a lot of bedding. (I use wood pellets.)

I was talking about it to my father. We have lots and lots of land, and we were discussing what we could possibly grow to use as bedding.

Anyone have any ideas? Anyone done something like this themselves?

-Straw, obviously. But I hate hate hate mucking straw and I'll continue to pay for pellets before I go that route.
-Chopped corn. We have a chopper (like one used to make silage) that will chop the entire corn plant into half inch pieces. They make corn that doesn't grow cobs, so worrying about horses eating kernels wouldn't be a big deal. After the plant is frosted once or twice, the silage/chopped corn comes out dry and fluffy, not moist.
-Switchgrass...but then we would have to look into a machine that would pellet it, probably not economical at that point.

Ideas?

deltawave
Oct. 26, 2009, 12:53 PM
I'd think putting a cash crop on the land and using that money to buy pelleted bedding would be SO MUCH EASIER. Or lease the land to someone and use that money to buy good bedding.

GoForAGallop
Oct. 26, 2009, 01:03 PM
I'd think putting a cash crop on the land and using that money to buy pelleted bedding would be SO MUCH EASIER. Or lease the land to someone and use that money to buy good bedding.

Okay, but regardless, pellets are getting harder and harder to find around here, and the feed stores are not offering any other alternative. Sawdust is non-existent unless you're a big barn with connections. Shavings are decreasing too. Morally, I would like to get away from using so many wood products, especially if it's as simple as planting a few acres with corn or grass, which is easily renewable.

deltawave
Oct. 26, 2009, 01:14 PM
How about chopping the straw into small bits with your corn chopper? I'm just not sure how absorbent this would be. Still, if you have the chopper, maybe buy a few bales of straw and give it a try?

Or growing fast-growing pine and making your own sawdust would work?

lawndart
Oct. 26, 2009, 01:29 PM
Actually, bedding is my biggest expense, followed closely by grain. We grow our own hay, so unless you add the cost of occasionally replacing a implement, bedding is the winner in the expense sweepstakes, and unlikely to give up that position. I think fondly of the days that a dump truck load of sawdust was $25. I can't even get sawdust any more, and straw in this area is always sucked up by the big farms and dairys. I'm not fond of shavings, and they are getting more difficult to find too.

What we ended up doing is making some bedding ourselves. Since we re-seed and upgrade our hay fields in a rotational cycle, there is always a field where the seeding is on a downward spiral. We let it stand as long as we can for height, then cut it, let it bleach out, then bale for bedding. It is not an optimal bedding, as it gets heavy while wet, I'm spoiled with the ease of the pelleted bedding. But some horses do better on it. We do have a bale chopper, that will shred it into small pieces, which helps. But that also makes it more liable to blow around on a windy day. I've never had a horse try to eat it, as they have great hay available to them. Why would they eat this bleached out tasteless stuff? ;)

I think the bedding is only going to get more expensive, for a variety of reasons. Less houses being built, leading to less lumber being sawed. More people buying pelleted stoves to heat with. Less public land being harvested of the timber, because of environmental issues. I have a vague recollection of something in the Kyoto Treaty that required certain countries to transition over to pelleted stoves by a certain date, or face fines and loss of carbon credits? (too lazy to google it, and read all the accompany bull doodie) Edit to add: http://www.articlesbase.com/environment-articles/kyoto-protocol-and-wood-pellets-in-search-of-clean-projects-366336.html

I don't know what the answer is. Peat and newspapers won't work for me, and I've gotten spoiled with the easy use of pellets. Every time I see a post with someone complaining about the rise of the cost of boarding, I want to fry them crispy. Nothing, NOTHING about owning horses has gotten cheaper in the last 5 years. Horse owners have had it good for so many years, now its become time to pay the piper. Unfortunately, this has hit the same time as many layoffs and permanent job losses.

Ah, I'll get off my soapbox now OP. Sorry :winkgrin: If you find an economical solution, please PM me OK? :)

GoForAGallop
Oct. 26, 2009, 01:47 PM
Thank you lawndart, I'm glad that I'm not the only one who's had this crazy idea! I will let you know if something works out....we're looking at ideas now to test out for next year's growing season.

And delta, good idea about chopping the straw...they do have straw pellets available in some areas, so that's a pretty similar idea.

Eventaholic
Oct. 26, 2009, 01:58 PM
I KNEW this was you! I don't know how, but I did.

Trip to the sawmill soon? I want to see how many bags I can stuff into Vibe. My bet is seven.

GoForAGallop
Oct. 26, 2009, 02:00 PM
I KNEW this was you! I don't know how, but I did.

Trip to the sawmill soon? I want to see how many bags I can stuff into Vibe. My bet is seven.

Ha, cause I'm the only one who has a father crazy enough to say "Ya know, let's just grow a bunch of corn and chop it up!"

SpottedTApps
Oct. 26, 2009, 02:05 PM
Another thought, since you have the chopper already, check into farmers that have already harvested their corn about taking their corn stalks for chopping. It'd be worth looking into at least to test the whole theory out. I've never heard of anyone using chopped stalks before, so wouldn't know how it would work.

GoForAGallop
Oct. 26, 2009, 02:08 PM
Another thought, since you have the chopper already, check into farmers that have already harvested their corn about taking their corn stalks for chopping. It'd be worth looking into at least to test the whole theory out. I've never heard of anyone using chopped stalks before, so wouldn't know how it would work.

We actually have a field of old sweet corn that we're going to test it out on....we only just started tossing ideas around today, so haven't started the testing phase! :)

greysandbays
Oct. 26, 2009, 02:29 PM
There's some farmers around here that bale corn stalks up in big round bales (after the corn has been picked). I don't know what they do with them.

Brushy wood grows pretty fast, and if you had a large woodlot, you could dedicate the whole crop to wood pellets. It's not not anywhere near big enough to be used as lumber, and won't be for many years. Not much different than a corn crop that takes several years to grow. All you'd need besides the capacity to make it into pellets would be some way to grind it up to be suitable to become pellets.

SpottedTApps
Oct. 26, 2009, 02:32 PM
There's some farmers around here that bale corn stalks up in big round bales (after the corn has been picked). I don't know what they do with them.



They feed them to cattle. Cattle will eat that stuff. Crazy.

Gatorsgirl
Oct. 26, 2009, 03:08 PM
I'd like to try hemp bedding. Not available in the US but used in Europe. Also illegal to grow in teh US still I think... but it would grow quick if you could and supposedly makes a good bedding out of the stalks and is very 'green/organic' - no nasty chemicals necessary. I'm no stoner but I've used hemp cord and after reading up on it it sounds like a great crop. The Queen of England supposedly uses hemp bedding in her horses stalls! If it's good enough for the queen it's good enough for me! :) Any international people use it? Could you grow and process it yourself for bedding?

GoForAGallop
Oct. 26, 2009, 03:32 PM
I'd like to try hemp bedding. Not available in the US but used in Europe. Also illegal to grow in teh US still I think... but it would grow quick if you could and supposedly makes a good bedding out of the stalks and is very 'green/organic' - no nasty chemicals necessary. I'm no stoner but I've used hemp cord and after reading up on it it sounds like a great crop. The Queen of England supposedly uses hemp bedding in her horses stalls! If it's good enough for the queen it's good enough for me! :) Any international people use it? Could you grow and process it yourself for bedding?

Well, it's kinda a moot point as it can't be grown, so I'd prefer if it not derail this thread too too much! I'd prefer legal options only...the drug helicopter flies over my farm pretty often. ;)

Robin@DHH
Oct. 26, 2009, 03:55 PM
We have poplar trees which we planted to provide a windbreak when
we purchased our farm. These trees reach a good size within 5 years!
You can coppice these trees and they will grow another trunk promptly
so the same tree can be cut over and over. If you have or purchase
a chipper, you could provide a nearly endless supply of wood chips
on which to bed the horses. Finely chipped wood works a lot like
sawdust but is less dusty. I would think this would be a fairly ecological approach. While the trees are growing they are absorbing
carbon. Since when you cut them you leave the roots and the lowest
section of the trunk, you still have the benefit of soil holding roots.
And since you are not getting the material from any distance from
your stable, you are not using up energy in transporting the bedding
to your stable. The only additional consumption is the chipper which
should, I hope, be modest.

deltawave
Oct. 26, 2009, 04:36 PM
We used to have hemp bedding where I boarded before I moved my horses home. It was low on dust, but lousy on absorbency, and sort of a pain to muck because it was stringy and clumpy. I didn't like it at all, other than the "low dust" part.

SMF11
Oct. 26, 2009, 09:19 PM
Of course, the *cheapest* solution is to leave the horses out at night . . .

But I'm sure you've thought of that, and have your reasons for keeping them in at night.

GoForAGallop
Oct. 26, 2009, 09:25 PM
Of course, the *cheapest* solution is to leave the horses out at night . . .

But I'm sure you've thought of that, and have your reasons for keeping them in at night.

Yes, obviously. Like I said, they stay out when it's warmer, but they don't have a shelter so when it gets very cold/winter conditions, I bring them in.

jn4jenny
Oct. 27, 2009, 04:53 AM
Yes, obviously. Like I said, they stay out when it's warmer, but they don't have a shelter so when it gets very cold/winter conditions, I bring them in.

How long would it take you to recoup the cost of building a shelter? If it's going to save you the cost of bedding, it may be worth it.

GoForAGallop
Oct. 27, 2009, 08:29 AM
How long would it take you to recoup the cost of building a shelter? If it's going to save you the cost of bedding, it may be worth it.

A shelter is already in the works, but it would need to be bedded anyway. Plus, I would still bring them inside during miserable conditions anyway, as I have a dominant gelding who I can easily see not letting the other two inside, no matter how big the shed.

Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion, please! :)

RU2U
Oct. 27, 2009, 09:13 AM
We were looking at using straw and chopping it up. So what would you use to make it small besides a leaf shredder and what would the costs be?

Ravencrest_Camp
Oct. 27, 2009, 10:06 AM
We have been using chopped straw for the last eight years. It is a wonderful alternative. Until we moved to our present farm I had never heard of chopped straw, but all the dairy farmers around here use it for bedding.

Once a year we get one of the local farmers to chop the straw and blow it into our loft. He chops the straw right in the field using a harvester. (the same machine he uses to harvest and chop his silage corn). To do it this way you have to have the storage room for a years supply of bedding. I have heard that there are smaller straw choopers that you can use to chop baled straw. So you could store or buy bales and chop them as needed. This is a much more expensive and dusty way to do it.

The biggest plus for us is the cost. It is very cheap. In fact the cost of chopping and blowing is more than the straw itself. Our cost per stall per year to bed the horses is $100, and we do not skimp on bedding.

Chopped straw is very different than long straw. With chopped straw you bed and clean stalls very much like you would with shavings. The chopped straw is more absorbent than long straw, though not as absorbent as pellets or sawdust.

I have only found one negative to the chopped straw. When we drop it down from the loft, it is somewhat dusty. It is not at all dusty in the stall or when you are mucking, just when you drop it from the loft. How dusty will vary year to year.

Minerva Louise
Oct. 27, 2009, 10:39 AM
The problem I can see with growing your own wood and shredding it is that it will not be dried. So it isn't like shavings that come off of wood that has been through a dry kiln. I have been at barns that used dry shavings and a barn that used some stuff that had not been through the kiln, and the non-dried stuff was heavy and awful....

The chopped straw idea sounds interesting.

GoForAGallop
Oct. 27, 2009, 11:13 AM
Ravencrest, that was exactly the sort of response I was hoping that I'd get--someone already doing something, WITH reported cost savings!

Miss Motivation
Oct. 28, 2009, 12:26 AM
Is this Martha Stewart?

:)

MediaMD
Oct. 28, 2009, 11:54 AM
we are extending the life of our highly priced bagged shavings by using the paper shreddings from the hospital where my husband works. The VA like most hospitals shreds all documents into the tiniest imaginable fluff--about the size of grains of rice.

About every day or so he brings home 2 or 3 garbage bags of the stuff which we add to the shavings. Wouldn't want to only use that becuase it's not all that fluffy for bedding but it does help a lot with absorbing the pee that lies on top of the rubber mats and it is recycling in the purest form.

I'm actually considering approaching other hospitals to see if we can pick up their shredded papers too. It saves them hauling it off and we have found it quite useful. It also doesn't give your manure piles that "trash pile" look since it is so tiny it blends right in.

Anyway, just wanted to pass this tip along in case someone else wanted to try it. I'm actually going to look into the shredded straw idea--anything to cut down on the massive expense of bedding.

Ravencrest_Camp
Oct. 28, 2009, 12:52 PM
we are extending the life of our highly priced bagged shavings by using the paper shreddings from the hospital where my husband works. The VA like most hospitals shreds all documents into the tiniest imaginable fluff--about the size of grains of rice.

About every day or so he brings home 2 or 3 garbage bags of the stuff which we add to the shavings. Wouldn't want to only use that becuase it's not all that fluffy for bedding but it does help a lot with absorbing the pee that lies on top of the rubber mats and it is recycling in the purest form.

I'm actually considering approaching other hospitals to see if we can pick up their shredded papers too. It saves them hauling it off and we have found it quite useful. It also doesn't give your manure piles that "trash pile" look since it is so tiny it blends right in.

Anyway, just wanted to pass this tip along in case someone else wanted to try it. I'm actually going to look into the shredded straw idea--anything to cut down on the massive expense of bedding.

I know someone around here who bought herself a microshredder. She collects flyers and other junk mail from all of her friends and co-workers. She then shreds it and uses it for bedding.

cssutton
Oct. 29, 2009, 09:53 AM
Shredded paper would be great if you can get enough of it.

I would vote for the chopped straw if you have more than two horses and a farm because planting a long stem strain of oats will not only give you the bedding, but it will give you grain for feed.

Straw not needed for bedding can be baled and sold for a good price if you are in an area where there is a lot of landscaping.

I like horse feed better because horses are crazy for it and will follow you like a pet dog to get it, thus making even the clever ones easy to catch, but I fed horses on straight oats for years and they certainly were fat, slick and healthy, hunting two and three days a week.

Now I just have two horses and they stay out 24/7, brought in only to ride, shoe, shots, etc., so life is much simpler.

CSSJR

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Catersun
Nov. 1, 2009, 10:53 AM
Hey Gallop

Did you guys chop the corn field??? just wanted to know how it worked!

Curiously yours, Catersun

kookicat
Nov. 1, 2009, 03:09 PM
I'd like to try hemp bedding. Not available in the US but used in Europe. Also illegal to grow in teh US still I think... but it would grow quick if you could and supposedly makes a good bedding out of the stalks and is very 'green/organic' - no nasty chemicals necessary. I'm no stoner but I've used hemp cord and after reading up on it it sounds like a great crop. The Queen of England supposedly uses hemp bedding in her horses stalls! If it's good enough for the queen it's good enough for me! :) Any international people use it? Could you grow and process it yourself for bedding?

I use Equisorb, which is made from flax. It's very like the hemp bedding. It's wonderful stuff- quick and easy to muck, light to work with, super absorbent.

http://www.equisorb.co.uk/

I don't know how it's processed. Might be something else to look into.

Here's a bit more info-

http://www.colehay.co.uk/equisorb.asp

vineyridge
Nov. 2, 2009, 09:33 AM
If you were considering growing something JUST for bedding, you could look into Kenaf. Several years ago, it was going to be an easily replenishable source of paper making material. Looks a lot like hemp, and might give the drug helicopters a bit of a scare.

http://www.visionpaper.com/kenaf2.html

SpottedTApps
Nov. 3, 2009, 11:50 AM
Does anyone have pictures of the chopped straw in stalls? I've never seen it and am curious.