Livestock farmers are being urged to consider opportunities to make the most of different options for bedding their animals this winter.
With straw prices escalating, Quality Meat Scotland has produced a booklet to help farmers optimise bedding use and consider the wide range of alternative products available to Scottish livestock producers.
According to Ian Pritchard, SAC Select Services Beef Specialist, who researched the content for the booklet with Dr Basil Lowman and Dr John Vipond, it is well worth farmers putting some thought into how they use bedding most efficiently.
“Some of the tips in the booklet may seem like common sense but too often simple steps which can produce big benefits are overlooked. For example a lot of straw is wasted because of lack of attention to clearing drain pipes before stacking straw in the shed,” said Mr Pritchard.
“Outside storage is also an issue as square bales have a tendency to absorb more rain water than round bales.
“The overall effect is that when bales are left outside and open to the elements the absorptive capacity is severely reduced. Wet straw is only 10% as effective as a bedding for livestock as dry straw - a lot of wasted money,” he added.
The QMS booklet also gives advice on how to reduce straw usage by highlighting how different feed materials can affect the amount of dung and urine produced.
And it flags up the number of alternative bedding products available in different areas of Scotland. The range of these materials, along with details of their relative absorbency factors, are detailed in the booklet.
“Some of these alternative materials such as oilseed rape straw, sawdust and woodchips have been used for a number of years,” said Mr Pritchard. “Others, such as canary reed grass and miscanthus, are new bedding materials.”
The fertiliser values of these alternatives are also listed as a number of these new materials do not compost as easily as straw does. The booklet also highlights the potential drawback of bedding materials that are too palatable to ruminants as this may affect daily liveweight gain.
Copies of the booklet can be downloaded from here or hard copies are available free of charge by contacting QMS on 0131 472 4040.