Farmers have alternative options to straw when it comes to bedding livestock this winter, according to Agricultural Consultant Jimmie Forbes.

However, Forbes did advise that barley straw is one of the best options out there for farmers bedding livestock this winter, especially with regards to fertiliser value.

Sawdust, mulch or bark and peat can all be used as bedding, he said, but each of these options provides their own positives and negatives.


Forbes, from Mullingar in Co. Westmeath, has seen a number of his own clients using peat as a bedding option due to its significant absorption rate, but he warned that this method can be labour intensive.

"If the peat is not bone dry going in then it will not work properly. If the peat is damp it will compact much faster and anaerobic infections may arise.

The peat must also be rotovated in the shed every couple of days to improve drainage, while the shed must be cleared every six or seven weeks.

If not maintained properly young calves may suffer from infections contracted through their naval, he said.

As an option for bedding, peat is also not environmentally sustainable for the future as the peat has to be harvested from the bog, Forbes added.

2.Bark or Mulch

Products such as bark, mulch and sawdust all provide their own challenges for farmers using them as winter bedding, the Agricultural Consultant said.

With regards to bark and mulch, farmers are faced with difficulties when disposing of it as it takes much longer to break down than traditional farmyard manure, he said.

Ploughing bark and mulch into the ground is one option for farmers looking to spread the manure, Forbes advised.


Sawdust can be mixed with other dung and spread on the land the same as traditional farmyard manure, usually at the back end of the year, he said.

To reduce your carbon footprint farmers are now being advised to spread all the manure and slurry as early as possible in the year to get the most out of it.

Meanwhile, some farmers are using a combination of products for bedding, according to Forbes, with one example being using straw on top of a layer of mulch or bark.

However, difficulties can arise when the mulch or bark becomes saturated forcing farmers to dig channels to relieve the run-off, he said.

Forbes works in the Co. Westmeath area working with farmers across all sectors while also running a farm himself.

Meanwhile, the deadline for spreading farmyard manure in the Republic of Ireland under the European Union's Nitrate Directive is November 1.