Make the most of your bedding

Reducing costs – now that’s something we’re all interested in.


And with winter housing firmly on the cards for many livestock farms, thanks to recent downpours and hard frost, producers’ pockets will be burdened with additional costs, not least straw for bedding.


But even this unavoidable cost can be cut with a little investment and good practice.


With merchants reporting big-bale wheat straw at 18-25/t and barley at 25-33 ex-farm depending on location this week, bills may not be as high as in recent years, when a poor growing season and damp harvest conditions limited supplies and sent prices straw soaring.


Even so, margins are under pressure and every penny counts.


And Farmers Weekly knows only too well from our unit at Easton Lodge that careful use of any resource can help keep costs under control.


For example, use of straw choppers – whether new or second-hand – can help chop straw use significantly.


And there’s a range of equipment from manufacturers to suit all pockets from bucket-mounted and rear tractor-mounted to push along models to consider.


In Farmers Weekly-funded trials a few years ago it was found that straw use could be cut by almost 50% through the use of a straw shredder.


And, yes, while the cost of purchasing, maintaining and operating a machine has to be offset against saving in straw and labour, it looked a worthwhile investment.


Manufacturers in the sector reckon most farms can achieve a saving of at least 25% in straw use and in some cases well over 50%.


But it just doesn’t stop at how straw is handled.


Storage is also a key issue.


Keeping supplies dry not only improves quality, but also helps protect the health of livestock over winter.


For example, independent research by organisations such as the Milk Development Council suggest a straw moisture level should be no more than 15% to limit the risk of bacteria transfer that can see milk hygiene suffer.


If storage space is limited – and many farms free up barns for housing stock in winter – consider using tarpaulins or clamp sheets to keep bales dry.


Remember, there is more than one way – quite literally – to give winter bedding bills the chop.