There are numerous types of bedding options available for inside your pig’s habitat. However, like all things in life, bedding depends on effectiveness and cost. Your pig’s bedding materials should be comfortable and smooth for the pigs to do both walking and sleeping.
The material you choose also needs to be the following:
- Have Low Levels of Mycotoxin Contamination
- Have Low Levels of Environmental Bacteria
- Extremely Absorbent
This guide and review goal is to help consumers have a better understanding of alternative options for bedding to consider.
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How Important is the Type of Bedding for Pig Pens?
The bedding for a pig is a vital part of its living environment. Your pigs’ level of comfort increases with well-managed sleeping and bedding packs. Your pig’s bedding allows the animals to alter the temperature it experiences.
Eventually, there will be places in her bedding that will start turning to compost and become extra warm. In the winter, this can be a good thing. On the other hand, there will be places in their bedding that is cooler. That area is where they will roam to cool off in hot weather. 
Bedding offers more than just a place for the pigs to sleep. The right bedding supplies a combination of benefits to growing pigs and sows such as:
- Physical Comfort
- Thermal Regulation
- Environmental Enrichment
The Best Pig Bedding Materials that Provide Comfort
Hay’s For Horses, Right? What about Pigs?
When you drive past an open field while the farmers cut hay, you can smell it for miles. The aroma coming from cut legumes and grasses are hard to resists. Hay is commonly what you find in pig feed. However, the poor quality hay makes excellent bedding for all swine.
You must see to it that the quality is edible at all times. Some animals eat too much of their bedding which causes them not to be interested in their feed. Be sure you never use hay that is old because old hay gives off a type of dust that can lead to respiratory damage.
Hay is, of course, one of the more expensive items to use for your pig’s bedding. It is also one of the highest absorbent bedding to use. Straws can be tricky if you fail to use the right type. It breaks, it sticks and causes pain and can often cause the pig not to sleep. Therefore, please educate yourself before bringing your pigs into its new home.
Hay When it is Soured
What is that horrible smell coming from the pig’s pen? You will hear this question over and over until you clean the pen and wash it down. Old, soured hay is quite absorbent and once soiled, begins to decompose quickly while producing a horrible odor.
That means your pigs roll around, sleep in, and walk in a more comfortable living environment when you incorporate hay and straw to their bedding.
Straw Bedding for Pig Cuddling
Straw is a soft, and dry by-product that consist of small grains that pig farmers commonly use. It is simple to handle, typically readily available, and carbonaceous for your compost pile. All hays have great absorbency.
Barley Straw Has Less Dust and More Comfort
Barely straw added to a pigs living quarters is very popular. It is soft and has minimum dust. However, among other straw types, barley is the least absorbent. Compared to oat straw, barley is 33 percent less absorbent.
Oat Straw Cost More, is it Worth the Price?
Oat is softer than the average wheat straw and is more absorbent than the variety of other straws. When comparing wheat against oat straws, the most significant difference is oat is much softer. That means your pigs are walking, rolling around, and sleeping in more comfort when added to their bedding.
Oat also tends to be more absorbent than the vast varieties of various straws. Oak is also 10 percent more absorbent than sawdust. However, oak also tends to be a little expensive when dealing with several pigs at one time and is extremely palatable.
*Helpful Tip* It is worth mentioning that oat straw is fluffy and very light. Therefore it blows away easily when used on outside units.
Cereal Straws Add Softness
Straw provides hogs and other outdoor barnyard animals excellent thermal properties but reasonable absorption ability. All that combined makes perfect bedding. Generally, swine farmers use barley and wheat straw, mixed with occasional oat straw, for bedding. In some areas, pig farmers even throw in bean straw when it is available.
Due to the changes in the environment, weather conditions, and the crops, availability may change. You may find yourself making use of an expanding range of bedding type straws.
Many farmers use wood shavings as it is satisfactory bedding that provides sufficient absorbency and comfort. To have access to wood shavings, you typically have to have an account with either a private mill or a lumber yard.
The business you work with must maintain a clean environment to provide the consumer with the best shavings. Also, you need to know your trees and their identities. Tress such as cherry and some woods can be toxic, so Its best to avoid those.
Wheat Straw is the Leader
Wheat Straw is the leader and most commonly used straw for pigs bedding. However, as far as comfort, wheat is not soft like barley and can be very brittle. When compared to oat straw, It is around 25 percent less absorbent. Wheat is also known to be the least palatable out of the variety of straws.
Wood Chips‐ Wood chips come in a vast variety of post peeling, bark, and sawdust. Two great things about wood chips are you typically do not need to add more for a while, and they are generally less expensive. However, absorbency and comfort are two important details this bedding lacks.
Depending on where you live, you may run into having an availability issue. Wood chips also create high-levels of dampness that generate mildew and mold. That in return, developes microbial growth. If you have show pigs, it is not wise to use wood chips. The reason why is once the moist color emits, your pigs could stain.
Rye Straw Makes Great Bedding But, is it Safe?
Rye straw, when available, can be a suitable type of bedding. It is not the most reliable, however, of available straw for pig pens. Many farmers stay far away from Rye Straw due to it being highly susceptible to ergot infestation. Before using Rye, you must check that the straw is Ergot Free and safe to use.
*Helpful Tip* The Rye Straw that does show signs of contamination can result in reproductive problems in pregnant pigs.
Triticale Straw Contains Wheat and Rye
Many have never heard of Triticale Straw and its uses. The reason why is it is basically a newbie and only been available for a few years. The Triticale Straw is a cross between rye and wheat grown in laboratory environments.
It took science and plant breeders over 30 years of effort to finally create a very attractive species to farmers. Today the production of Triticale Straw yields just as much or even more than that of wheat. Indeed the yields are high however the product tends to be a bit harder.
Triticale Straw produces an impressive 30 percent larger volume of bedding straw, which is what makes it so attractive to livestock farmers. Remember, any straw you choose for your pig’s bedding must be dust and mold free as well as clean and bright.
When Straw Sources are Limited
There are times when pig farmers panic due to there being a limited supply of straw material. Now that science is using high volumes of straw for Biofuel production; the cost will increase. One other scenario that causes pig farmers to panic is when there is a poor straw harvest. Both of these situations typically make prices for straw increase dramatically.
While as you can see, there are several varieties of bedding options but the effectiveness and cost vary. Whether it is for bedding or feed, a shortage can cause chaos within the farming industry. Shortages happen due to Farmers yields failing or companies overstocking and Biofuel production.
How to Make Straw Yields go Further
If you operate a pig farm, the longer you can stretch your supply of straw, the more income you will save. That is not to say be skimpy on what you have, but, make sure you know how to stretch what you have to last longer.
Consider incorporating alternative material such as rare straw types. The following are alternative straws you can use for bedding and deep litter units:
- Pea Straw
- Bean Straw
- Rape Straw
Each of those staw examples are good for making base layers. To help prevent waste, follow these instructions:
- Be sure the drainage area is in good working order and not clogged.
- Also, keeping a watchful eye on feeders and drinkers to prevent unnecessarily spillage that leads to spoilage.
- Consider positioning of the arcs and do your best to avoid any wet holes.
- Store your straw in an area that is protected from weather elements if at all possible. That will minimize the number of bales wasted as well as reducing the odds of Mycotoxin contamination.
Alternatives to Add to Your Cereal Straw
Through research, science has proven that coarse wood shavings, woodchips, rape and pea haulm each are perfect for proper drainage properties. Each is also great for underneath straw. Shredded paper also performs well when mixed with straw.
Five Considerations When Choosing Bedding
Try to buy your bedding when it is at a particular season, the most economical times or harvest time. If you use sawdust, try to buy yours during the busiest time for sawmills. If possible, purchase yearly supplies as discounts often are available when you buy in bulk. However, be sure your area for storage is dry and clean.
Here lies a more significant issue than what most people realize. How much time will it take to attain the material then safely and accurately disperse the product? Two other details to consider is cleaning and back straining deposal of the soiled material.
Maintaining the Manure
You must ensure the material you choose for your pig’s bedding works well with your manure system. If you find it does not, check to see if alterations can happen to either the system or the material. Keep in mind; wood items very easily creates an issue for waste disposal and management. That is especially true with the scenario of composting due to the high-carbon-nitrogen ration.
Type of Use of the Bedding
You must take into consideration the situation that the bedding will be of use. Will it be for a regular day-to-day-bedding and if so, does that include pregnant or milking livestock? Will it be in with sows and her newborn babies? You need these answers before you bring your pigs home.
This consideration is one of the most vital ones you must keep in mind; how available will this product be and is there a constant shortage? Are there various uses for the product other than bedding and will that have much of a factor?
What that means is the product you like a significant contributor to things such as gas manufacturing and biochemistry? That includes Biofuel production. Also, you will need to evaluate the source to ensure you will receive clean products.
Q: Should I worry that my pig will turn on me while cleaning their bedding?
A: Although it happens, it’s not every day that one angry pig suddenly turns on its owner. However, be safe by keeping a pig board handy and available at all times.
Q: Are there specific bedding characteristics to consider?
A: Yes-Here is a few:
- Moisture Content
- Particle Size
Remember, the best pig bedding material should be non-slippery, comfortable to sleep and lie on and highly absorbent. It would help if you also made sure there are low mycotoxin contamination as well as environmental bacteria.
By providing your pigs an environment that will keep them safe with plenty of room is a key to raising healthy, happy pigs.
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