View Full Version : Straw
May. 4, 2011, 08:25 PM
Does anyone here still bed with straw?
How many bales do you go through in a week/month?
(Based on horses being out a lot, I know with good mucking I can do 1 bag shavings/week +1 extra a month).
For any other animals as well?
May. 4, 2011, 10:53 PM
For us, I haven't found straw alone, to be a good bedding. Local straw all seems to be the shiny wheat straw, so not very absorbent unless you chop it. Chopped straw is equal to sawdust or shavings in absorbtion, very nice stuff. I use a leaf shredder to chop straw, but a if you have farm equipment maybe you have a chopper that will do the job. I chop several bales at a time, store the stuff in a few leaf bags. Chopping really reduces the straw bulk, so you need to do more than one bale. And the chopping can be very dirty, dusty, so I always do it outside.
I find that it takes a couple bales of chopped straw to fill a box stall, 12 x12 ft, with a nice layer. Then you can easily remove the wet or dirty stuff, put more chopped straw in.
Using just regular wheat straw, not chopped, the stall can LOOK great, but has almost no absorbtion factor. The wet just runs to the bottom and stays put. Horse may be a stall pacer, totally mix wet and dry, to require removing all the bedding. Lifting out any wet stuff, the puddles stay on the bottom. I had to add wood pellets (had no sawdust which is why I used straw) for absorbtion. So long straw over pellets in wet spots is a nice bed in the stall for horse. Not wet. Shavings are way too expensive for home use here. If I have sawdust, I use that alone, no straw at all.
We usually only have straw for foaling mares, or when our past sawdust guy got behind on deliveries. I do use straw in one corner over sawdust for the 4-H calves. Cattle LOVE to lay in straw, calves hide in fluffy piles if they have straw.
I had to get another pitchfork to work the straw with, has 10 steel wire tines. Does well on both long straw and chopped moving, sorting and cleaning. Plastic sawdust fork just doesn't work on straw at all. I found my old pitchfork of 6 tines let too much stuff fall between, so kept picking up the same stuff as I lost it across the stall. REALLY irritating!!
Straw is pretty cheap, easier to handle than loose shavings or sawdust in some ways, but bulky for spreading on the field. Straw does break down fast when spread. Just not absorbative by itself, as the only bedding used.
Without a bulk storage place, chopping straw is kind of a pain. Though the chopped straw is a GREAT bedding, equal to sawdust for me.
May. 4, 2011, 11:17 PM
Wow! Thank goodhors, that was great info :).
I was comparing prices today, I hadn't previously considered switching, but I have an extremely clean mare & with straw at less then half price of shavings which are frequently inconsistent quality and not always in constant supply :S.
Do you find the chopped straw breaks down any faster?
May. 5, 2011, 11:50 AM
Chopped straw when spread, is about invisble in a couple weeks. All those cut ends absorb liquid very fast, whether in a stall or morning dew. Helps them break down really quickly. Probably equal to mowing the pasture, leaving the cut stuff on. Cut grass disappears pretty fast too after a mowing. They say if you leave cut grass lay, by the end of summer it equals an application of fertilizer for your lawn/pasture. Just don't cut pasture too short, less than about 5 inches. Height keeps leaves feeding the plant, protects the roots. I cut when grass gets about 8-10 inches tall, to prevent seed development. Going to seed means the plant can shut down, goes dormant for the rest of the season.
With my sawdust bedding spread, it acts more like mulch, layers stay in place holding moisture for the plants, protecting any bare soil. This is fine, very helpful in hot summer sun, hard rains. Does not break down fast at all.
Any grass product, hay, straw, chopped or long, just breaks down lots faster, so it doesn't protect the plants and soil very long as a mulch does. They do get their nutrients into the soil much faster this way.
There are good and less good features to both types of bedding spread on fields. For sandy dirt, heavy clay like mine, the longer lasting wood products take a long time to break down, get the organic material into the soil, but their benefits last longer as well. Quick breakdown of the straw and hay products mean they get into the soil quicker, keeps the fertilizer minerals moving quicker to the plants. However their benefits last a much shorter time, need replacing sooner. Again, looks nice fast after spreading, but not much value as a mulch unless you make DEEP layers to protect the soil and plant roots.
Each kind of bedding is beneficial to the soil you spread it on, but soil testing will be needed to make sure the correct minerals are available to the plants for pasture growth. With my heavy sawdust spreading, my fertilizer recipe changed. I needed more lime in my mix to free up the available Nitrogen already in the soil. Nitrogen is used to break down wood products, feed the plants. My land is a LOT more absorbative with sawdust being worked down into the soil by worms and time. Straw use could skew your mineral needs in fertilizer order a different way. So soil test TELLS you just what is needed for that field, no wasted money putting on minerals you don't need when you fertilize. Lime does seem to aid in mineral linking, but too much is just not utilized well.
I got my leaf shredder at a local auction, maybe you could find one on craigslist at cheaper than new prices. Uses weed whacker string, is electric. Or other stick choppers for homes, can work just fine for straw chopping, but any method is dusty. Could be quite worth the chopping effort if you save a lot on bagged shavings. Our farm friends run their straw thru the hay chopper and fill half the mow above horses with chopped straw. They just push it down thru floor holes to bed stalls. If I only had 1-2 horses, I would probably do chopping here. However with our quantity of horses, it is way too much work with the leaf shredder.
May. 5, 2011, 12:19 PM
I suppose if you have drainage in your barn, the wet running off is not a bad thing. But not everybody has a barn build a hundred years ago...
We used to do deep litter on straw, worked well, you had a nice soft base, topped each night with a new layer. You could ration the hay a bit more, since they always had something to nibble when they got bored (so if your horse is a pig, gotta watch it, also, you have to know what kind of straw you are using: My sister's gelding is allergic to barley...she found that out right after she had stocked up on barley straw...)
I do not care much actually for either bedding when it's not deep and fluffy. there is just this wrong feel for me when you can hear the base under the hooves (stalls were paved)
We generally stripped every week.
May. 6, 2011, 02:01 PM
I bed on straw over a bag of pelleted bedding (to soak up pee). Horses are in 12/out 12. I go through maybe 2 bales of straw and 2-3 bags of pellets a month per horse.
May. 11, 2011, 09:29 PM
I use straw now year round for all horses. I prefer to muck it over a shavings stall. I find it easier and faster than shavings. It also makes far superior compost and I do a lot of gardening.
I go through for two horses a bale every other day. One mare is a terrible pig...so if not for her, it would be even less. That figures inside overnight or 12-14 hours. Summer time on night turnout it's even less.
I pay $4.95 for a large wired bale. I figured once that I save $50 a month using the straw over bagged shavings. I did that also for a while and could not stand the dust so switched back to straw. Bulk shavings are about the same in cost but all bulk shavings I've ever gotten were really dusty.
May. 11, 2011, 10:39 PM
I use straw, I think my barn smells better, I prefer mucking straw. While $5.50 bale delivered and stack its still cheaper than shavings.
Also removal is great, I get paid for it!!
May. 16, 2011, 05:16 PM
I love straw but my gelding is such a pig he eats it all!!
May. 16, 2011, 07:07 PM
I love straw. Use it alone except for the two geldings. They get a 1/2 bag of shavings on their pee spot with straw over top. Straw is very resonable in my area @ $3.00 bale (and they are nice large bales!) so I save quite a bit of $ over the cost of shavings.
May. 17, 2011, 12:07 AM
I bed everything on straw on dirt floors. We do get some pee spots, but I've found that if you rake the broken down straw/hay dirt in to the pee spot, it absorbs whatever lakes they create. In heavy winter I go through 2-3 bales per box stall (12x12). This time of year when they're out a lot, each stall uses probably about half of that. Around here, I get straw delivered for $3.75. I agree with the above poster that it's better for the environment, makes a great fertilizer, I think the stalls smell better in the long run that with shavings. Of course, nothing beats the smell of fresh bags of shavings though!
May. 17, 2011, 06:19 PM
We layer shavings and straw, deep-litter, and it seems to work extremely well. No "floor" in the barn, just stone dust over gravel over dirt, and the horses are certainly not in 24/7, not even 12/7.
My advice would be to get large squares if you can, because the straw has already been chopped, which makes it very easy to spread fresh, and then kick around as it's breaking down in the deep litter, and eventually, it breaks down that much faster in the muck heap.