The best bedding and the lowest price – is that possible?

Beddings can be expensive and it is important to keep the cost under control, especially for those with bigger stalls and many horses living therein. The cost of bedding is an equation which not only involves the cost of the bedding itself, but one must also take into consideration how much of the bedding is consumed on a weekly basis, how much manure the bedding creates which later requires disposal, and the total amount of work-hours needed to take care of the daily cleaning of boxes.

Usage and cost: At first glance it may seem like the classic bedding of loose straw is the cheapest alternative as it is usually is around £0.06 per kilo. The bedding is much cheaper than wood pellets which are £0.23 per kilo, wood shavings which are £0.28 per kilo, and even straw pellets as the cost for this bedding is £0.22 per kilo.

As we know, however, you need more bedding when using a type of bedding which is not capable of absorbing fluids efficiently. On average one should expect that around 30 kg wood pellets are required per box, per week, while 35 kilo of wood shavings and 25 kilos of straw pellets are average numbers. For those who use loose straw, an average of 75 kilos is to be expected per box, per week – that is three times as much as what is needed when using straw pellets!

Wages and costs: In addition to the cost of the bedding itself, there are other costs involved when trying to determine the cheapest alternative. Mucking is not only a time-consuming task, but if you hire a stableperson, you can save big money on using a bedding which is quickly taken care of. A skilled worker requires about 10 minutes per box when straw is used. At an hour wage of £15.5, one box will therefore cost you approximately £77.5 every month.

The average time per box when wood shaving is used is approximately 8 minutes, meaning the monthly wage per box is £62 while wood pellets require about 5,5 minutes of the workers time, thus £42.63 per month. Straw pellets are the easiest to handle with an average time of 5 minutes per box and therefore a monthly cost of £38.75. This type of saving especially adds up if you have a big stable with many boxes.

Disposal and costs: the manure must be disposed and if you do not have the appropriate equipment or land, the disposal may turn out to be a costly affair. The cost is determined by the weight, or how much of the bedding you need to replace on a daily basis. When straw is used, one should expect costs of about £15.5 per month. Wood shavings are cheaper than straw but one should still expect a cost of around £6.98 per month. Wood pellets will cost you about £3.49 per month while straw pellets are the cheapest option with a cost of approximately £2.33 per month since only about 25 kilos will need to be replaced per week in contrast to the 75 kilos which you need to replace if loose straw is your preferred type of bedding.

With all this in consideration, the cost per month when using loose straw as your horses bedding is approximately £111, wood shavings £108.18, wood pellets £73.72, and straw pellets £62.08.

The cost of storage is not included in this equation. Due to the difference in volume and the considerable lower amount of consumption, customers will save even more when using straw pellets compared to loose straw if rent has to be paid for the storage space. The handling is also much easier when dealing with straw pellets compared to today’s large bales of straw. Straw pellets can also be delivered regardless of season, with the same quality and quantity.

With these numbers in mind, the more expensive option after the initial look actually turns out to be the cheapest bedding to use over a longer span of time. Straw pellets result in substantial savings when consumption, labour and storage is taken into account.

The figures and calculations used in the article are based on a study presented in the magazine Bayerns Pferde (12/2015).