To use Shavings or not to use Shavings...what are the alternatives

I board my horse, but since I’m on partial care I pay for her food & shavings. She’s fairly neat in her stall, always pooping and peeing in the back left corner of her stall. The stall is matted.

However, her turnout schedule has changed from being out all night long, to out all day long. Because she is spending 16 hours stalled vs the 11 hours she was in before, it seems she is making quite a bit more mess in her stall. Still in the same area, but more of it.

I have used everything from the shavings the BO gets delivered from a mill, to fine flake bags of shavings from TSC, to what she’s currently in, the wood pellet bedding that you wet and let expand.

The wood pellets I thought were great, because there’s virtually NO waste of shavings since it’s so fine it falls through the pitch fork. But it’s been about two weeks now and her stall is SO SO dusty. She has a tub right outside her stall that holds her blankets (shedrow style barn-protects them when not in use) and it’s COVERED in dust that wasn’t previously an issue (pre this bedding) Not to mention her water buckets, though dumped and refilled twice a day, seem to have a layer of dust on the top, which again, was never a problem before these pellets.

She isn’t having any respiratory issues knock on wood.

My other concern is the fact that it doesn’t seem as “comfy”…sure it kind of mimics sand IMO but I guess I’m just used to fluffy thick shavings. There are about 6 bags worth of the wood pellet shavings in right now, and it doesn’t seem “comfy” to me. Three wheelbarrows or three bags of traditional shavings seems to fluff up nicely.

Then there’s also the cost. A bag of wood pellet costs me $6.99 a bag. Times that by 6, which is what it took to start the stall, and that’s ~ $40 just to start the stall. BO charges $5 a wheel barrow for her shavings, and TSC usually costs me between $4.99 and 5.99 for a bag of shavings. 3 bags/wheelbarrows seems to do her stall perfect.

Am I crazy or is there more hype about the wood pellets than actual beneft?

BO uses 2 bags of pellets (unexpanded) as a base in her gelding’s stalls and has 2-3 wheelbarrows/bags of shavings on top for comfort. It controls the odor and helps soak up pee, but I don’t see the waste factor change a whole lot with them, as she’s putting new pellets and shavings in every other week.

Thoughts?

What are my other options for a sanitary, easy clean, long lasting item? Is there one? I feel like there is hype about the wood pellets, and I had read a lot of great things about them, but honestly, aside from the waste reduction with my particular mare, I’m not exactly thrilled with them.

I spread the pellets in the wet spots and use shavings for the rest of the stall. That keeps down the dust, but the pellets are great at absorbing the liquid. I think shavings are warmer than fluffed pellets in the winter, but the fluffed pellets are very comfortable…it’s like a TempurPedic bed for horses if you get the right depth.

[QUOTE=LauraKY;7845374]
I spread the pellets in the wet spots and use shavings for the rest of the stall. That keeps down the dust, but the pellets are great at absorbing the liquid. I think shavings are warmer than fluffed pellets in the winter, but the fluffed pellets are very comfortable…it’s like a TempurPedic bed for horses if you get the right depth.[/QUOTE]

This technique works really well. I have also found that wood pellets get dusty if they are not slightly damp all the time.

Wood pellets are MUCH more absorbent than shavings. I think that using both in the stall is the best option but if I have to choose one, I would go with pellets. You can mist them to keep the dust down.

I guess my lack of experience with wood pellets has me worried about misting them. So it’ll be okay to wet them down to keep down on the dust? I guess I was under the impression that if I wet them, there would be a point where they would just become junk.

irrational over-worrier here

I’ll try misting her stall a bit, and maybe throw a wheel barrow of shavings on top :yes:

I just put the pellets in the wet spots, then used the straw over the top. I have only used pellets a couple times, when we couldn’t get sawdust delivered for various reasons. Straw LOOKS nice, but has almost no absorbtion, so on the mats I needed the pellets for the liquids. Pellets did an EXCELLENT job soaking up the wet, cleaned the wet pelleted bedding out daily, put down new dry pellets.
There would be some dampish, breaking down pellets to the side of the wet spots, but the amounts I added daily were small and just enough to soak up what horse peed in stall. I did not add water or mist those pellets, wanted 100% absorbing from them. Straw was of a depth for a nice bed, pulled aside to get wet spots cleaned out.

I hate straw bedding unless it is chopped to short lengths. Chopped straw is VERY absorbent, equal to sawdust in keeping animals dry. But the chopping is a pain, dusty, time consuming. So I only use straw when I have nothing else.

For my short term use, the pellets in the wet spots was great for keeping the horse bedding dry, horse dry when they layed on that thick straw. Wetted pellets in those couple wet spots were easy to clean up, put down more.

I certainly cheered when the New sawdust guy arrived with a load!! I do have pellets stored in another barn, ready to use if needed. They don’t spoil if kept dry, are a great product. I just do not feel stalls NEED pellets in addition to our Wood Fiber (shredded wood, looks like mulch) bedding.

I would not spend the extra money on pellets, if I thought the barn provided bedding was keeping my horse dry for laying down. Not much you can do about needing more bedding, if horse is in their stall longer. Just gives them more time to use that bedding! I would go with the products that were cheaper, for the quantity I needed, so horse is dry in her stall. A bag of pellets just for wet spots, could be extra-absorbent, and lots less dusty, costly, than doing the whole stall in pellets. Our Wood Fiber bedding had to be tweaked some, because it was VERY dusty the first couple loads. Everything in the barn was filthy with dust, and horses were not in very much to move bedding around. They don’t dry our load as much now, so no big dust issues. Just know that ALL wood things, do seem to be dusty. I always sprinkle down the bagged shavings when we haul to a show. Not soaking the shavings, but some water on them. Just are bags of dust with some curls to absorb the manure and liquid, which they do well! Horses are covered in dust as they walk around stalls if you don’t sprinkle that lovely looking bedding first.

I wet pellets befor using them, like the OP. I actually slash an X in the bag and pour about a bucket of water in, and watch them expand, like a loaf of bread. Heh, I get a wierd satisfaction watching that. 4 or 5 bags per stall.

Pellets are actuallly what I consider compressed sawdust, so you are getting actually sawdust for bedding, so its not surprising when the area gets really dusty as they dry out.

You do need to keep them hosed down. Spray/mist every few days. Also, a good way to keep the dust down is to make sure you expand them and don’t up them in the stall as a whole pellet. Then the horse crunches them underfoot and they really turn into a fine dust, before ever they expand from any stall moisture. Always expand them with water when you add the bag to the stalls.

[QUOTE=AnotherRound;7845747]
I wet pellets befor using them, like the OP. I actually slash an X in the bag and pour about a bucket of water in, and watch them expand, like a loaf of bread. Heh, I get a wierd satisfaction watching that. 4 or 5 bags per stall.

Pellets are actuallly what I consider compressed sawdust, so you are getting actually sawdust for bedding, so its not surprising when the area gets really dusty as they dry out.

You do need to keep them hosed down. Spray/mist every few days. Also, a good way to keep the dust down is to make sure you expand them and don’t up them in the stall as a whole pellet. Then the horse crunches them underfoot and they really turn into a fine dust, before ever they expand from any stall moisture. Always expand them with water when you add the bag to the stalls.[/QUOTE]

Know what you mean about the satisfaction of watching them expand… I did the same thing, X the bag, pour bucket in… I meant to go ride while the bags were soaking up the water, but I kept stopping and watching…seeing the little pieces pour out the sides of the bag with every passing moment… bahaha.

I guess I just didn’t realize I need to keep up on misting it every once in a while!! DURR it would make sense, I suppose!

Look at flax bedding too… I find it way less dusty (virtually no dust) and the wet spots tend to clump together.

[QUOTE=One Two Three;7846031]

I guess I just didn’t realize I need to keep up on misting it every once in a while!! DURR it would make sense, I suppose![/QUOTE]

As with most things, it depends :slight_smile:

If you’re in a rainy/humid climate (& no wind), the pellets hold their moisture much better, regardless of how you clean the stall.

If you read (some) directions, only the nearly “black or dark red” pellet crumble is removed, the rest of the damp (pee!) bedding is mixed back in … this does work to keep down dust.
And if your horse wears a sheet, it’s not quite so offensive.

I can’t say anything positive in terms of respiratory damage to your horse, which begins to occur at very low levels of residual (gaseous, which is why you can smell it - except apparently some people are inured to the odor) ammonia, but it does make for lower bedding costs.

If you do remove all the soiled/damp bedding pellets, it’s easy for the remainder to become dry & dusty, just sprinkle the top surface with a watering can & let your horse do the mixing.
Depending on heat & wind, you can expect to (water) damp the bedding every 1-3 days. I prefer to add small amounts of water more frequently.

I also like to mix (larger) shavings in with the moistened pellet bedding for loft.
Though, again, if it’s very windy, damped pellets are much more wind resistant than any shavings mix.

Play around with the composition to find what suits your horse/climate best :slight_smile:

PELLETS!

I have my own barn with 3 horses in the stall half the day. We used to use the fine shavings from tractor supply - around 3 bags to start a stall, then usually 2 bags a week in the winter. We heard so many great things about pellets that we decided to give them a try. We found them to be nice for all of the reasons people state, but gave up because they were too dusty. Went back to shavings. A friend told me that you really have to soak the pellets, so we tried again. They take up much less space than shavings. And shavings get dusty too as they break down. Here is what we do - trust me, at least give it a try.

1- starting a stall: 3-4 bags per stall - ours are 12x12 - take the bag and pour it in a clean muck bucket. Add a FULL bucket of water - hot water is faster - let them fluff up, it will completely fill the muck bucket. Spread 3-4 bags per stall. I sweep mine from the edges because my mares spread it out by walking around. Some recommend making it very deep, but then you have to search for pee spots and it Takes longer to sift through. If you have a neat mare 3-4 is plenty.

2- crucial step - order a “Fine Tines” scoop from Dover to muck with. This will allow you to sift most of the bedding out and only remove the manure. Get the pee spots with a shovel, scraping away the clean bedding from the pee spot and then scooping out the soaked bedding.

3 - add more as needed, but when you add use 1/2 of a bag in the muck bucket with another full bucket of water. They will be very damp. Mix this into the bedding in your stall. This helps keep everything moist and not too dusty. Sometimes I use only 1/2 bag, sometimes I soak a whole bag 1/2 bag at a time.

4- if you find that your bedding is getting dusty but don’t need more bedding - take the hose and really SOAK your bedding (after you pick the stall clean). Do not be afraid of adding so much water. Mix the bedding up to spread the water in. This will fluff everything up nicely. In the hot summer we do this every few days as needed. We only misted the first time we tried the pellets and it is worthless. You will not believe how absorbent the pellets still are when they are damp. Now that it’s cooler we haven’t had to wet them nearly as much. I mix the water in with a shovel because it’s quicker and less strenuous. I even spread the new very damp pellets in with the shovel.

For my very neat mare we add 1 bag / week to her stall. For my less neat but not too messy mare sometimes I add 1 1/2 bags per week.

Every 2 - 3 months I strip it out and put fresh bedding down. My neat mare can go 3 - 4 months before I strip hers.

The fine tines fork will get most of the small stuff and even hay, so your bedding stays very clean. It will pay for itself in saved bedding.

So, it costs us around $25 per month for our tidy mare and maybe $40 for our other mare. More in the winter, less in the warmer months.

Another benefit is that there is virtually NO ammonia smell - the pine pellets neutralize the ammonia - unless your horse pees excessively, then you may have a slight smell when it’s dirty. With shavings we would walk into the barn in the morning and smell pee. We don’t smell pee at all now. Only when you are standing over a pee spot while mucking.

We have rubber mats. Regarding a comfy bed - horses are so heavy that the shavings do not remain fluffy when they lie down. The ground outside is not fluffy. This fluffiness concern is in our heads. The pellets and rubber mats add some cushion and I have had no issues with hock sores.

An added bonus is not having to pick shavings out of tails. And the stalls take half the time to muck. Trust me, at least give this a try.

I would not have spent 20 minutes describing this if I didn’t think you would love this!

Pellets are dehydrated sawdust - so they are extremely dry (obviously, that’s how they get them in that little bag!) Using them dry (in any way) totally defeats the purpose…so you need to wet them to return them to sawdust, where they are still very absorbent. And, depending on your climate, humidity, etc., you may need to continue to mist them because they can dry out (or, especially if they were never fully rehydrated, they can be very dusty). It is a little bit of an art form to keep them at the proper consistency.

For a perfect stall, I would use fully hydrated pellets under a layer of shavings…I think that is the most comfortable and absorbent “bed”. But, in my own barn I only use pellets because my horses do not have to stay in their stalls, and as such, rarely lay down in them and choose to lay down in the grass or the arena. I prefer pellets because they break down so much faster and more completely in my compost pile.

But, shavings over pellets can make the cleaning and moisture management a bit more difficult. Depends on who is cleaning/maintaining the stalls, and whether they are willing to deal with both.

[QUOTE=SquishTheBunny;7846529]
Look at flax bedding too… I find it way less dusty (virtually no dust) and the wet spots tend to clump together.[/QUOTE]

I have a barn full on straw, the wet spots are dusted with flax, and then straw top. I have my neat-nic filly (poops and pees along the back wall) on flax alone. It’s slightly dusty, but not comparable at all to sawdust/shavings.

By half the day I mean 8-12 hours depending on the season.

I’ll be the Voice of Dissent re: wetting pellets.
I don’t.
Rarely I will mist with a hose when I’ve stripped a stall & rebedded with all fresh pellets.
It takes 3 bags for each 12X12 stall.
Within a day or two pellets are broken down into a uniform sawdust-like bed.
I refresh with a bag maybe once a week, usually longer, after removing soaked (dark red) bedding.
No problem with dust - possibly helped by my barn being open to outdoors year-round.
Horses are turned out 24/7 coming in for grain & in colder weather for the night, by their choice.
Pony regularly sleeps flat out in his stall.
I’ve seen him & evidenced by a coating of bedding on one side.

[QUOTE=2DogsFarm;7847140]
I’ll be the Voice of Dissent re: wetting pellets.
I don’t.
Rarely I will mist with a hose when I’ve stripped a stall & rebedded with all fresh pellets.
It takes 3 bags for each 12X12 stall.
Within a day or two pellets are broken down into a uniform sawdust-like bed.
I refresh with a bag maybe once a week, usually longer, after removing soaked (dark red) bedding.
No problem with dust - possibly helped by my barn being open to outdoors year-round.
Horses are turned out 24/7 coming in for grain & in colder weather for the night, by their choice.
Pony regularly sleeps flat out in his stall.
I’ve seen him & evidenced by a coating of bedding on one side.[/QUOTE]

I can’t imagine doing this simply because of the waste factor. One 40lb bag of pellets turns into a wheelbarrow full of bedding if you wet it; which is sort of the point. It’s dehydrated to make it easy to ship and store. Not sure why anyone would want to use it dry, but if it works for you, so be it. :confused:

So does your wet bedding freeze in the winter? Having a hard time picturing damp bedding working when it’s 10 below.

[QUOTE=TrotTrotPumpkn;7847327]
So does your wet bedding freeze in the winter? Having a hard time picturing damp bedding working when it’s 10 below.[/QUOTE]

Yes, sometimes. I know some people don’t use it in the coldest part of winter. The key is to churn it up really well after you rehydrate it. I once had a boarder basically dump pellets in a stall and soak them, and leave it untouched overnight, and it stayed frozen solid for half the winter. Once you wet it, you need to turn it several times and turn it again a few hours later…and, in my barn, I turn it every time I clean it. If you drench it, it might freeze solid, but if you just dampen it you should be fine; any frozen clumps fall apart pretty easily as you sift the bedding.

Again, it’s not necessarily the best choice for everyone, depending on their climate and routine. I definitely like it a lot more when it’s not 10 below. :slight_smile: If I had to keep my horses stalled through the winter, I might switch out to shavings, or use barely rehydrated pellets under shavings just so they are not standing on cold bedding.

regarding very cold weather: We had an arctic winter last year and when it was in single digits there were some frozen clumps of pellets. This was not a major problem, but if you live in a climate that regularly gets very, very cold, you can use shavings for the coldest months. I’m in Kentucky and only had a few days of frozen lumps of pellets. It amounted to a little more waste as they didn’t sift through the fork, but we did not change to shavings.

[QUOTE=LauraKY;7845374]
I spread the pellets in the wet spots and use shavings for the rest of the stall. That keeps down the dust, but the pellets are great at absorbing the liquid. I think shavings are warmer than fluffed pellets in the winter, but the fluffed pellets are very comfortable…it’s like a TempurPedic bed for horses if you get the right depth.[/QUOTE]

This is what I do, too. Generally I use 1/3 to 1/2 a bag of pellets (dry) for the spots only and then bed shavings on top. It saves so much shavings and $$. That said, the best bedding I’ve used is shredded phone books/newspaper. It’s dust free, super absorbent, fluffy, and long lasting. The only reason I don’t use it at my own barn is because it looks terrible scattered on the ground once you spread it.