Alternative Livestock Bedding

Download Our Guide to Alternative bedding materials for beef and sheep housing systems in Wales

The Woodchip for Livestock Bedding Project ran from December 2005 until May 2008 to evaluate the potential of woodchip as an alternative bedding material to straw for use indoors with sheep and beef cattle.

Straw is currently the most popular bedding material used in Wales and is estimated to cost the industry £12.5 million every year. As straw costs could potentially rise, farmers are seeking alternative bedding materials and since wood is a local resource in Wales, woodchip is gaining popularity. However, farmers required clear guidance and information on the suitability of woodchip for use as a bedding material and its effect on the health, welfare and performance of the animals as well as the cost of using it. Information on the sourcing of suitable material was also required as was an understanding of the potential uses for woodchip after it has been used as bedding.

The project comprised a series of studies and demonstrations to address the following topics:

Woodchip procurement and production

  • Sources of woodchip
  • Chipper types
  • Wood species
  • Optimum moisture content and drying techniques
  • Size and shape of woodchips

Management systems

  • Type of housing
  • Feeding area - scrape clean or feeder on woodchip
  • Frequency of bedding
  • Depth of bedding
  • Effect of animal diets
  • Labour requirements

Animal health and welfare

  • Health issues e.g. lameness and pneumonia
  • Cleanliness of animals
  • Performance - weight gain and feed intakes
  • Welfare - time spent lying on the woodchip

Management of woodchip once it has been used as bedding

  • Composting woodchip bedding
  • Options for using the composted material

Cost efficiencies

  • Is it cost effective to use woodchip as bedding?
  • Is there a market for composted woodchip?

The full report can be found here.

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