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Monday, December 6, 2010

Time to Bed Down!

It's getting cold and a lot of farmers and ranchers are starting to move some of their livestock inside for the winter and with that moves comes an increase in management.  Farmers supply indoor animals with bedding in order to make the living space more comfortable and provide warmth when it's rainy, cold and snowy.

A lot of farmers and ranchers use straw to bed down their animals. Straw consists of the dried stalks of plants, especially cereal grains such as wheat stalks or corn stalks. Straw is not hay!  Hay is used as a primary forage and serves as a valuable source of nutrients, energy and v&m (vitamins and minerals) whereas straw is used as bedding and also to assist with scratch factor in livestock. Another key difference between straw and hay is that straw is much cheaper. For example:
In Kansas an average small square bale (~65-70 lb) costs  ~$3/bale. One ton of small square bales may cost anywhere from $85-$95/ton (depending on size/price of bale).  Straw on the other hand is about $55/ton.  As you can see, it's much cheaper to use straw as bedding than hay because farmers will use several tons of straw throughout the winter to keep livestock warm and dry and those costs will add up.
Still having trouble differentiating between straw and hay? Check out these pictures:

Hay (above)

Straw (above)

Another form of bedding used in livestock operations are shavings.  Shavings are most commonly found made from pine wood. These are really prevalent in the show industry.  Here's an image of pine shavings at work.

The last form of bedding I want to discuss is sawdust. Sawdust serves the same purpose as straw or shavings but there is a downfall. Sawdust shouldn't be used in a building or area that allows strong winds to blow through - why?  Because sawdust is so fine that the wind can blow it up in the air and it can get into the animal's eyes.  You should never used sawdust in a trailer that has open sides or slats - that's just asking for irritated eyes.

Livestock aren't the only animals that enjoy warm bedding in the winter --don't forget to put some extra straw in your dog house this winter! 

Until next time,

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