Shredded cardboard provides innovative, environmentally safe livestock bedding materialWritten by Gayle Smith
With county fairs and livestock shows coming up, participants can choose to purchase environmentally friendly livestock bedding at a cost comparable to sawdust and wood shavings.
According to Kurtis Olson, plant manager of Western Resources Group (WRG) in Ogallala, the eco-shred bedding is made from 100 percent recycled, high-quality cardboard.
The eco-shred bedding is gaining popularity with livestock producers, horse owners, kennels and poultry farms. Olson says these producers have found shredded cardboard bedding to be three times more absorbent than wood shavings and healthier for their animals.
“A lot of trees are diseased that are shredded for sawdust or wood shavings,” Olson explains. “Those products could have fungal spores, beetles and fecal material from squirrels, raccoons, possums and birds. We actually provide a line of cardboard bedding to veterinarians for post-surgery that is not sterile by laboratory standards, but it is a lot cleaner product because it doesn’t have bird droppings and other contaminates that are found in forestry products.”
Shredded cardboard bedding also has some outstanding thermal insulation qualities.
“It keeps animals really warm, and it is virtually odor-free. Customers can request a pine scent additive that helps cut down the ammonia smell during the winter months, when the animals are kept inside more,” he explains.
Olson says it is also ideal for customers with allergies. In an auction setting, people who can not attend because they are allergic to cedar or pine shavings don’t have a problem with the shredded cardboard.
This product also has minimal dust, thanks to a vacuum system that captures and extracts a fair amount of the dust during the shredding process, he explains.
Some horse owners who haul their horses have tried the product and really like it, Olson continues.
“Horse owners and salebarns are our biggest customers right now. Horse owners like it because when they are trailering their horses, a lot of the wood shavings get airborne and end up caught in the horse’s mane and tail,” Olson says.
“The shredded cardboard doesn’t do that, which means it is also safer for the horse’s lungs. Horses and other animals can get the equivalent of COPD. They can develop lung conditions, and some customers have switched to shredded cardboard bedding because of that,” he notes.
Livestock producers are also showing more interest in the product, which Olson says is comparable in cost to wood shavings and sawdust.
Some customers have begun to purchase it for their egg laying hens because they don’t scratch it all out of the nesting box like they do wood shavings. Olson says these customers say the hens like the shredded cardboard better because it isn’t prickly or scratchy.
He notes, “It will also last a third longer than wood shavings because it is so absorbent.”
The durability of the cardboard bedding depends upon the size of area and number of animals, Olson explains.
“It lasts longer than wood shavings because the cardboard will absorb urine rather than displacing it like wood shavings,” he adds. “In low humidity areas, the cardboard bedding will also allow some of the moisture to evaporate.”
In some informal tests Olson has conducted, the shredded cardboard holds about three times as much moisture as wood shavings.
“We have it packaged in plastic, rectangular bales that weigh about 50 pounds,” he says. “We don’t sell these bales by weight because some of the cardboard is ribbed and may not weigh as much as the more dense cardboard.”
“The bales are condensed to 2.8 cubic feet. When they are opened, they will cover an area of nearly seven cubic feet,” he said.
The used bedding can be disposed of like sawdust or wood shavings.
“It is much more user-friendly and breaks down quicker than wood shavings, especially cedar,” Olson notes. “Shredded cardboard can also be applied to a garden or a field. It can be used as compost and makes an excellent soil builder or fertilizer because it doesn’t alter the pH of the soil like wood shavings.”
In the future, Olson hopes to see the company continue to grow.
“We have a lot of room for expansion here,” he says. “We have a lot of indoor storage, and we are only using about half of our property right now. We want to get more equipment in here in the future and get some larger companies and big box stores to provide us with some additional cardboard.”
As WRG gains customers, they continue to look for distributors to handle the product.
Currently, eco-shred bedding can be purchased at the plant in Ogallala, Neb., Brighton Feed and Saddlery, and in some stores in Hershey, Lincoln and Scottsbluff, Neb.