Four Welsh Institutes have been involved in the project since it began to assist in evaluating woodchip as a bedding material.
ADAS demonstrated the effect of moisture content of the chip on the subsequent usage of woodchip. Three types of woodchip of different moisture contents were used alongside a straw comparison. The moisture contents aimed for were 20%, 40% and 60% but the actual moisture contents achieved were 34.4%, 52.7% and 54.9% respectively.
The work at ADAS demonstrated that less bedding was required with the driest woodchip due to greater absorbency levels.
Following on from the housing of animals on woodchip the used bedding was then composted according to a protocol produced by Bangor University. The composted material was then applied to grass plots in Spring 2007 and the grass growth was monitored throughout the season.
The demonstration at IGER was to study the effect of a dry hay diet against a wetter diet of silage on the performance of the woodchip bedding in comparison with straw bedding.
As expected, animals receiving the wetter silage diet required more bedding than those on the hay diet, regardless of whether they were housed on straw or woodchip.
IGER also composted the used bedding and the material produced was applied to spring barley plots in spring 2007. The growth and yield of the barley was then assessed and compared with plots that had received inorganic fertiliser.
Glynllifon tested woodchip derived from different wood species. There were 8 comparisons made up of the following wood species; short rotation coppice, oak, sycamore and beech mix, larch, Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, ash and straw.
The wood species did not appear to affect the performance of the woodchip. The woodchip from the different species at Glynllifon were all of similar moisture content and as they all performed to a similar standard this suggests that the moisture content of the wood is more important than the wood species.
Glynllifon composted the used woodchip bedding during the summer of 2006 and this was then re-used as bedding from January to April 2007 under cattle and sheep.
Bangor University was responsible for the monitoring and sampling of the composts during 2006. Regular samples were collected and analysed to assess the performance of the composts and to establish best practice guidelines for farmers wishing to compost woodchip bedding on their farm.
Studies are on-going at Bangor to assess the nutrient value of composted woodchip and to ultimately provide recommendations for using composted woodchip in an effective and beneficial way.