Researchers at North Dakota State University set out to determine the water absorption capacity of two bedding materials, flax shive (a newer bedding material) and pine wood shavings which are commonly used by equine facilities. The second objective was to measure ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and greenhouse gas concentrations emitted from stall surfaces bedded with both materials.
The water absorption capacity of bedding materials were measured at 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24 hours in a laboratory. A total of eight horses were used for a 14-day study period. Of these, four horses were bedded with flax shive and the other four were bedded with pine wood shavings for week 1. During week 2, the bedding materials were switched between the two groups. Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide were measured in the stalls. Greenhouse gas measurements were collected 6 inches above the bedded stall surface.
The size of pine wood shavings were much larger than flax shive. The smaller particle size might be a precursor of dust, which was noticed in the stalls bedded with flax shive. The water absorption capacity of flax shive was 56% greater than the pine wood shavings when soaked for 24 hours. There were no differences in ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and greenhouse gas concentrations between the two bedding materials. Mean nutrient content was similar between both fresh bedding materials, except for phosphorous and potassium. As expected (due to the addition of manure and urine), the nutrient content between fresh and soiled bedded samples for each bedding material were different. Total phosphorus and potassium contents of soiled pine wood shavings bedding were approximately 7 and 20 times higher, respectively, than those of fresh pine wood shavings bedding material. Total nitrogen and total phosphorous contents of bedded flax shive were approximately twice than those of fresh flax shive.
Flax shive shows potential as a new bedding source for use in horse stalls. For more information, click here.
Summarized by: Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota.