Horse bedding 101

It is the most misunderstood part of buying horse supplies we encounter on a daily basis. Buying shavings in the bag. I always have people ask me what size bag I have, 3.25 or 3.50? So I thought it would be appropriate to help everyone understand how to buy shavings the RIGHT way!

Shavings have two sizes, the physical size of the bag (generally between 2.75 and 3.50 cubic feet) and the size of the chute that the shavings are loaded into just before compressing into the bag (generally 4.9 to 11 cubic feet) You can see that it is not the size of the bag that is important, it is the size of the compressed material. Here’s a perfect example:

Johnny Stableowner goes to the local big-box store where they sell shavings in a 3.25 cf bag for $4.99 a bag. There is no marking on the bag of what the uncompressed size is. This is usually a 4.9 cubic foot bag. Those small bags are rarely marked on the outside how many cubic feet are actually in it. I asked the maker of the bags at said store and they assured me they were 4.9 cubic feet. OK, so that translates into $1.01 per cubic foot of material. Now, Johnny’s smarter wife Jane Stableowner goes to another store and specifically asks how many cubic feet are in the bag and she gets shavings that have 9.75 cubic feet per bag and cost $5.50. Dumb Johnny argues that his wife is a dumbass and just paid 50 cents more per bag than he did. Smart Jane says Johnny’s the dumbass because she just paid 56 cents per cubic foot, ha ha!

Jane’s right. You should know several things about your shavings. Number one is how many cubic feet are in the bag. If it’s not marked you can assume it is less than 5 cubic feet. Two, are they screened for dust? Many dealers sell hog bedding from the Canadian suppliers which is brutally dusty but it doesn’t say that on the bag. You find out later when you horse develops heaves and your barn is coated in dust. Three, are they softwood shavings. This should be a no-brainer but there are several dealers out there who sell chipped spruce and building debris as horse bedding. These shavings are hard, almost like wood chips and can contain old 2×4’s. Yummy.

Buy shavings by the internal cubic foot not the size of the bag they are in. So know your 1,2,3’s of buying shavings and be a smart Jane, not a dumbass Johnny!


About hossjudge

Author - mystery novels that include horses Tack shop owner NEHC Large J judge in both divisions Clinician, coach, 4-H leader for 35 years. All around horse nut!
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