The best sheep bedding option you can use for your sheep is one that is easily available to you, absorbs well, and doesn’t give off dust. The quality of bedding materials is an important thing to consider when choosing one for your flock. It influences the health of the flock during the time the bedding will be in use and consequently influences the productivity and the cost of keeping the flock healthy.
There are different sheep bedding options, and they come in different forms – organic and inorganic. However, there are no rules as to which one is universally best as each option has its demerits and merits. The best sheep bedding option in the area may be different for another area, largely due to the availability of the bedding material.
Bedding materials serve the same purpose across all livestock. However, some animals have a preference for certain bedding materials and the depth the bedding has to be. For instance, cows use more bedding than sheep. This is most likely due to their bigger size.
In this piece, you will have all the information you need to help your sheep get comfortable in their shed by choosing the best sheep bedding for your flock. You will have access to information on the types of bedding, what makes a bedding material the best for you, and how to manage sheep bedding. Our complete starter guide to raising sheep provides a lot of great information on many sheep topics.
What Makes A Good Sheep Bedding?
While you may have some materials you feel may be good as bedding material for your sheep. The question is how good can they be for your flock? Do they have all the qualities a good bedding material should have? If you can tick off the qualities we will be discussing now on the materials you have around you, you might just be lucky to have an endless supply of sheep bedding.
The first thing to look out for in bedding meant for your sheep is how well it absorbs moisture and heat. Bedding material is meant to keep your flock comfortable by reducing the amount of moisture that is in contact with. This also makes the buildup of bacteria and other microorganisms reduced, thereby positively affecting the health of your flock.
During the cold months, when your flock cannot be outdoors grazing, a bedding material that helps to conserve heat as much as possible is a huge plus. The bedding will help the sheep keep the internally generated heat when the nest is in it. And when the external temperature plummets, the bedding can supply the heat it has absorbed to the sheep.
There is also the absorption of your sheep’s waste. The bedding material of your choice should effectively absorb urine and dung from your flock and consequently prevents the hooves of your sheep from being in direct contact with their waste, helping to save them from foot rot.
Does it allow nesting?
One of the purposes of using bedding for your sheep is to improve their level of comfort in their shelter. They can’t be on their feet all day, they will need to lay down and rest at some point. However, if the floor is cold and moist, it is not the right environment for them to lay down. Therefore, bedding will make the floor more comfortable for them by keeping their body away from the cold and moisture on the floor.
Your sheep will readily nest in a material that is soft and does not make their body wet. They will rest in the depth of the soft material and conserve their body heat during those cold months.
As a routine cleaning operation, the waste of your sheep has to be removed from the shelter, daily. This can become a tiring activity, especially if you have a large flock. Sometimes, the dung has been pressed to the shelter floor and requires more than sweeping to get them off. For their urine, you need to wash the floor to get rid of it and the acrid smell that comes with it, but you need to keep the shed as dry as possible.
One solution to this dilemma is to use bedding that aids in waste management.
How dusty can it get?
You don’t want a shed that is constantly dusty and causes respiratory issues among your flock. One quality your bedding should have is its ability to give off as little dust as possible while being absorbent. Although bedding materials have this quality, they may be lacking in one or more of the other qualities your sheep bedding should have.
This narrows down the best sheep bedding option.
Types of Sheep bedding
Considering the different qualities that your sheep bedding should have, several beddings satisfy these qualities to an extent, some better than others, but still passably good as sheep bedding. They are broadly categorized into organic and inorganic sheep bedding.
Organic Sheep Bedding
Organic sheep beddings are beddings gotten from plant sources. They are usually easy to get, and affordable, especially in farming areas. They can even be available to your sheep for free. Some of them are:
After processing at the local mill, some woods have shavings that are useful as bedding for your sheep. Such wood shavings include pine, aspen, and cedar. They are available in different textures and might be dusty. They may also contain aromatic oils and can cause health problems such as gastrointestinal, respiratory, and urinary issues in your sheep.
However, aspen wood shavings used for bedding usually have aromatic oils removed. This can also be achieved by drying the wood shavings in a kiln.
Straws are the most common sheep bedding materials. They are soft stalks of grain crops such as wheat, rye, oats, barley, and rice. Straws are easy to handle and readily available in many farming communities at a lower cost. They do not give off much dust and absorb heat and moisture well.
However, they can be a problem when your sheep begin to feed on the grains still attached to the stalk. Also, when you remove from the shelter and use them on your pasture, there’s the risk of having grains you do not desire on your pasture. For instance, if your pasture has barley and your straw is from rye, you can have rye growing amidst your barley when you use the straw on the pasture.
A great option for your flock if they are allergic to wood shavings or you do not want to risk your sheep feeding on grains. The paper used for bedding is usually aimed at recycling. They are usually cardboard papers or regular papers. They are great absorbers of moisture and your sheep is not at the risk of consuming it.
However, they get soiled quickly and do not last long in the shelter. They present the challenge of making urine reach your sheep’s hooves and at the risk of footrot if they are not quickly removed. They also give off a horrible smell when soaked with urine.
Hay is more common as a feed for sheep, and rightly so. Although hay, when dried, is an excellent absorbent, it can be a problem when it becomes soiled. It also begins to decompose very fast and give off an offensive odor at this stage.
There is also the problem of your sheep eating the hay, and when it has held an amount of their waste, it is not a healthy feed choice.
Inorganic Sheep Bedding
Inorganic sheep bedding is bedding made from materials that are synthesized. They do not decompose because they are not degradable as easily as organic beddings. They are generally longer lasting and only require washing as floors are.
Slats are plastic bedding used for sheep. They are made to allow the passage of waste through the spaces in the sheets. They are excellent for promoting the foot health of the flock because they do not allow moisture to stay on them. Slats readily pass it through the spaces.
However, they may require other organic bedding for pregnant and lambing ewes. It also allows the buildup of ammonia underneath it, giving off a bad smell.
Of all the sheep bedding options, straw is the best, considering all the qualities of good sheep bedding. The risk of having grain available to your sheep can be addressed by ensuring that all grains are removed or using straws from crops you will want in your pasture.
What is Straw?
Straw is a by-product of cereal crops. It is the inedible part (stalk) of crops such as rice, barley, oats, rye, and wheat – at least for humans – used for different purposes, such as fuel, crafts, feeding livestock as in roughages, mulch, and in raising sheep, as bedding material.
Straw is soft and absorbs moisture well, discouraging the growth of bacteria and mold, thereby preserving the health of your flock and aids in waste management. It also helps to conserve heat loss during the winter, keeping your flock warmer for longer.
Different types of Straw
There are different types of straw and it depends on the cereal crop from which the stalk is gotten. The characteristics of a cereal stalk, although they are similar, determines the type of straw you have in your hands. Therefore, the types of straw include:
- Wheat straw
- Rye straw
- Barley straw
- Millet straw
- Rice straw
- Oat straw
These straws are commonly used as sheep bedding. However, some cereal crops such as maize, do not usually have much use as straw because their stalk is somewhat not as soft as the others, such as wheat.
Our Recommendations for Straw Bedding
These straw beddings are products we consider to be of high quality and offer the best comfort, waste management, and disease prevention for your sheep.
Double F Farm Premium organic straw is suitable for use in many animals, one of them being sheep. This straw is obtained from wheat grown in local farms and contains no irritant or chemical preservative that may be of detriment to the health of your flock.
You can get to do other activities in place of clearing waste as the bedding is highly absorbent and holds your flocks’ dung and urine for a long time.
Also, you can save on treating diseases such as foot rot since it does not encourage the easy growth of bacteria because it does not mold easily.
You also have an added advantage of using the straw as manure for your pasture when its time in the shed is up.
- It does not mold easily
- Makes waste management easier
- Saves cost on foot rot disease treatment
- An enormous amount may be needed to see its effectiveness
- It May contain grains you do not want your flock eating
Natural wheat straw that contains no artificial preservative. It has been rid of the wheat seeds, giving you rest about your concern on your flock eating the wheat grains. It comes in slabs, making it easy for you to place them in the required places in your flock shed.
AA Plus Shop natural Wheat Straw is suitable for your sheep shed due to its high absorbent quality, helping you manage waste and conserving heat when needed. It also serves as a manure source for your pasture without introducing unwanted seeds.
You can also be sure your sheep will not eat wheat seeds from it as they have been removed.
- Natural straw
- Helps to manage waste and heat in the flock shed
- Prevents bacteria growth and staves off footrot
- Available in slabs for easy handling and installation
- You may require a large amount for your flock, depending on its size.
Sheep bedding Management
It is important that your sheep bedding be kept clean and shouldn’t stay long before they are changed. This helps to keep the health of the flock good and ensures that the occurrence of mold formation and bacterial growth is kept at a minimum. The question then is, how often to change sheep bedding.
It is important to keep bedding away from moisture as much as possible, as it helps to prolong its life. However, this can only be achieved if they are left in storage. When they have begun to absorb waste from your flock, they begin to deteriorate, although different beddings decompose at different rates.
You should remove the sheep bedding once you begin to perceive ammonia buildup in the shed, no matter how faint it is. If you can perceive it, chances are mold may begin to grow on the straw. Remove the straw and wash the floor with an antiseptic solution and leave it to dry before putting fresh bedding.
Frequently Asked Questions on Sheep Bedding
Can You Use Hay for Sheep bedding?
Hay is one of the types of bedding your sheep can use. However, it is not commonly used because it decomposes very fast when it becomes soiled, and your sheep may feed on them, which is not healthy once the bedding starts to accumulate waste.
What is the Best Bedding for Sheep?
There are many bedding options for sheep. You can choose to use pine shaving for sheep bedding; however, the best sheep bedding is still Straw of whatever kind as it is absorbent, natural, and easy to handle.
Keeping your flock in good health involves keeping them clean at all times. One of the ways to achieve that is to prevent them from coming in contact with their waste and keeping them warm when they need it.
Bedding is one way to achieve this, and the best choice of sheep bedding depends on its availability and price-friendliness in your locality.