With farmers considering their winter housing options and the price and availability of straw not looking likely to stabilise, business savvy producers should be looking at the alternatives.
Quality Meat Scotland has produced a revised and updated version of a booklet to help farmers optimise bedding use and consider the wide range of alternative products available to Scottish livestock producers.
The update adds performance results from the use of alternative bedding products on three farms, and also offers advice to pig farmers for the first time.
Bedding cattle on straw is the usual practise in Scotland but availability in some parts of the country is extremely low and the cost of getting straw delivered can be high. Timeliness of harvesting and re-planting has seen a lot of straw being chopped and incorporated into the soil at harvest time and this has led to reduced availability to producers.
Using no bedding or keeping stock in poor conditions could be classed as a welfare issue and could cause a penalty on the Single Farm Payment. It can also reduce animal performance and increase the risk of ill health.
Other products suitable as bedding material are on the market and the new booklet explores these materials and their suitability, lists materials unsuitable for bedding and provides some cost savings from the use of alternatives.
According to Ian Pritchard, SAC Select Services Beef Specialist, who researched the content for the booklet with Dr Basil Lowman and Dr John Vipond, it is well worth farmers putting some thought into how they use bedding most efficiently. He added: “Some of the tips in the booklet may seem like common sense but often simple steps which can produce big benefits are overlooked. For example a lot of extra straw is used because of leaking water troughs or guttering.”
Copies of the booklet can be downloaded from www.qmscotland.co.uk or hard copies are available free of charge by contacting QMS on 0131 472 4040.