Is there a reason to choose straw rather than shavings (or vice versa) for stall bedding? I've always been partial to straw because it looks more comfortable, but I know people who absolutely swear by shavings, and I don't know if my reasoning is really all that valid.
If I want to sell a horse --- I'd bed him on straw. Nothing looks better than a horse bedded deeply on straw! BUT... It's a lot more bulk to clean up, some horses eat it, it can be hard to get. Every farmer will want your manure pile, though! Shavings are more compact, more absorbent, usually easier to get. Straw isn't as dusty. Straw is nice because when the stall is empty during the day, you can bank the clean straw against the walls and let the wet spots dry. I'm not helping any, I know! For overall ease of cleaning, though, I think that shavings are easier. But the way that a horse looks on straw is SO nice!
We use sawdust/shavings but I used to keep the horses on straw. It's a PITA to muck if you don't bed heavily & getting to where you can muck it fast & clean takes a lot of practice...definitely takes longer than the sawdust/shavings.
While it would seem that the dust from the shavings is worse (and it may be more dusty), our vet told us NOT to put my COPD mare on straw...ICR now but I think it had something to do w/mold spores??? Our straw was always beautifully clean but I think she was referring to the sort of spores that are omnipresent on all hay and the reason folks soak hay. Can't remember though...COPD mare is pushing daisies now. We can get our shavings in a fine sawdust consistency all the way to giant flakes and something in between.
There was a vet school study reported fairly recently about straw. I think I read it on The Horse, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the gist was that straw is better for stalled horses as far as relieving boredom and reducing nervous habits because it keeps them busy picking through it. So if you don't want your horse to nibble on straw, that would be a problem.
As for cleanup, I find it a little harder to pick through than wood-based beddings. I have never used the paper stuff.
Our neighbours love straw and so use that exclusively. I think they like the look? Or maybe the less dust? But... They also have stall mattresses. This combination does not work well as the straw doesn't do much to absorb urine, so the urine just puddles on the mattress so they have to use a lot of the stuff you sprinkle to absorb the wet.
We also have stall mattresses. We use shavings (bagged). Not only does it take me less time to clean my stalls, but the shavings absorb the urine, so the mats don't get as wet and stinky.
At shows though, my preference is to put a bag of shavings down, and then straw on top. I think it keeps my horse cleaner, and they do enjoy sifting through the straw for edible bits.
Straw is better for mares foaling as it is less sticky/dusty.
I don't have stall mats in the new farm when I relocated. Right now, the mats are not a priority so I switched to straw. OMG, for me, it was much easier and the stalls are cleaner for me and stay nicer longer. I was a die-hard shavings person in PA but circumstances changed.
I love the look of a well bedded straw stall and I DO think it is more comfortable. There is an artform to bedding it well and mucking it out, but if you can get the hang of it, it usually doesn't take longer than mucking out a well bed shaving/sawdust stall. But it is bulky as hell. You have to have a good plan for it at the END of its cycle, because it takes up a lot of space. And finding GOOD, clean straw can be really tough in some areas. And, yes, some will eat it, though, I've never had weight management issues with it. In fact, one porker would eat TONS of it at night, since I limited his hay, but never gained weight. It kept him busy and happy...though, it made a mess of his stall every night. He'd get thirsty from eating all that straw, drink a bunch, and then pee like crazy. Since he'd eaten a large portion of his bed, it would be VERY well and gross by the morning!
But, really, the biggest turn off for me is the way *I* smell at the end of the day. If you're the mucker, the smell really, really clings to you and you get pretty offensive smelling. Even worse than normal. The barn tends to smell more "zoo-y", too, which isn't THAT bad, but can be tricky if you haven't sensitive nosed clients. But, boy, I can't stand the way my shoes, clothes, and hair smell at the end of the day!
So, I prefer shavings. Deeply bedded. Not as cozy and comfy, but work just great and you don't smell like the elephant house at the end of the day.
I have used straw for foaling and surgical rehab stalls because it is cleaner, less dusty and has more cushion than shavings. We also used straw at the sales because it kept the horses being shown much cleaner - probably helped the less busy ones with some boredom - have never had too many problems with them eating more than a nibble here and there as long as there was hay available.
That said, getting good quality, clean straw 12 months a year is not easy in our area so we currently use sawdust for our boys. My allergy to mold cannot tolerate anything but top of the line straw so using sawdust just makes it safer for me too.
Thanks, everyone, for your input and the links to the articles. Basically, the answer is .... "It depends on your preference!" I do think my horse does well on straw, but I'm sure he would be fine on shavings as well. LOL
As someone who used to muck stalls as part of their daily routine, I have to say I prefer straw to shavings. There is a knack to cleaning and bedding straw, but I always felt like the stall was clean and comfy at the end of it all. I just don't get that feeling from shavings, and paper is a PITA - big time!
I've been using straw for 2 years now and won't go back. My initial motivation was that it's lighter to clean (I have a delicate back). The gardener who takes some of my used bedding loves it as well. It's cheaper for me too.
Recently I was out of straw so I ran to the feed store and bought bagged shavings to get through a couple days....I swear it seemed like they were 1/2 the size that they used to be. It took SO much to fill a stall and it never felt as cozy as the starw. I was happy when we got our straw in!
Straw bedding has several drawbacks, however. One is the dust and mold spores that may be present. When horses lie down in straw bedding, they tend to inhale more airborne particles because their noses are closer to the straw than when they are standing. Horses that are sensitive to these particles may develop breathing problems that can be avoided by using a material that is free of dust and mold. A second drawback is that some horses are tempted to eat straw, an undesirable habit from both a health and a nutrition viewpoint.
^ THIS has been my experience when using straw. I had one horse eat it so much he bloated up and another when I had him gelded put him on straw and he developed heaves.
With a very costly disposal where I live, straw is not an option. It takes up too much room in our dumpsters where shavings are much less to dispose of.
I did recently start using pine pellets where my horses pee and they work fantastic.
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There are different kinds of straw too. Wheat straw can be quite nice to work with, especially if chopped short, and especially if your stall can dry or drain. One of our feed stores always seems to have beautiful straw. Rice straw is not nice at all.
Shavings are sure nice to make a deep, soft bed, though.
If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket