When most of our time in the day is spent mucking or maintaining stalls, it becomes quite clear that there is a problem with our choice of bedding. If you notice bedding being impacted with feces, the cage floor becoming damaged or a strong smell of ammonia in the air, then it may be time to change the type of bedding you're using.
What to Consider
Since each bedding type may work differently per situation, you will need to consider which species of animals you have, what type of enclosure they're in and how you will be using the bedding throughout.
- Animal Type
No livestock animals' feces are quite the same since each animal will have very different digestive systems and diets. The consistency, weight, and size of the feces should ideally match the weight and absorbance of bedding used in the floor of their enclosure so that the bedding clumps around it.
- Enclosure Design
It's important to take a look at every area of the enclosure that may come in contact with the animal's feces to prevent damage and avoid ammonia buildup. Wood boards, seams near the floor, and dips in concrete are vulnerable to absorbing or pooling urine which is often the culprit in smelly enclosures. For problem enclosures, you may need lightweight and exceptionally absorbent bedding so it pulls the urine away from the surfaces.
- Bedding Use
Take note of any problem areas in enclosures and how often you muck stalls. While some beddings are excellent for clumping feces or absorbing urine, they may become unforgiving to work with if you don't clean feces out regularly. You may want to avoid placing highly absorbent bedding near entry points of enclosures that are exposed to mud or rain.
Types of Bedding
Although straw doesn't absorb urine very well, it provides a sort of cradle for heavy and grass-based feces. After heavy feces dries on straw, it will clump up in a mat which pitchfork users find very convenient. Straw is a favorite top-layer or entry point bedding of choice for large livestock, cattle and horse caretakers.
- Wood Chips
When finely ground, wood chips make an excellent lightweight base layer choice throughout an indoor enclosure. When urine or feces falls on dry wood chips, it will absorb the moisture and clump around feces byproduct. Wood chips tend to work well within enclosures of animals like horses, pigs or chickens.
- Biodegradable Pellets
These paper or wood-based pellets are often easy to work with as a base bedding and allow you to spot clumps of feces very easily in enclosures. They provide an excellent amount of aeration for medium or small farm animals but may work best with enclosures that have a drainage system for urine. Consider using them for rabbits, goats or pigs.