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Reducing Respiratory Health Risks to Horses and Workers: A Comparison of Two Stall Bedding Materials

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Stable air quality and the choice of bedding material are an important health issue both in horses and people working or visiting horse stables. Risks of impaired respiratory health are those that can especially be avoided by improving air quality in the stable. The choice of bedding material is particularly important in cold climate conditions; where horses are kept most of the day and year indoors throughout their life. This study examined the effect of two bedding materials; wood shavings and peat; on stable air quality and health of horses. Ammonia and dust levels were also measured to assess conditions in the stable. Ammonia was not detected or was at very low levels (<0.25 ppm) in the boxes in which peat was used as bedding; but its concentration was clearly higher (1.5-7.0 ppm) in stalls with wood shavings as bedding. Personal measurements of workers revealed quite high ammonia exposure (5.9 ppm8h) in the boxes in which wood shavings were used; but no exposure was Animals 2015, 5 966 observed in stalls bedded with peat. The respiratory symptoms in horses increased regardless of the bedding material at the beginning of the study. The health status of the horses in the peat bedding group returned to the initial level in the end of the trial but horses bedded with wood shavings continued to be symptomatic. The hooves of the horses with peat bedding had a better moisture content than those of the horses bedded with wood shavings. The results suggest that peat is a better bedding material for horses than wood shavings regarding the health of both horses and stable workers.
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Animals 2015,5, 965-977; doi:10.3390/ani5040394 OPEN ACCESS
animals
ISSN 2076-2615
www.mdpi.com/journal/animals
Article
Reducing Respiratory Health Risks to Horses and Workers: A
Comparison of Two Stall Bedding Materials
Markku Saastamoinen 1, *, Susanna Särkijärvi 1and Seppo Hyyppä 2
1Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Opistontie 10 a 1, 32100 Ypäjä, Finland;
E-Mail: susanna.sarkijarvi@luke.fi
2Ypäjä Equine College, Opistontie 9, 32100 Ypäjä, Finland; E-Mail: Seppo.hyyppa@hevosopisto.fi
*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: markku.saastamoinen@luke.fi;
Tel.: +358-29-532-6509.
Academic Editor: Kirrilly Thompson
Received: 14 July 2015 / Accepted: 29 September 2015 / Published: 8 October 2015
Simple Summary: In this study, the effect of wood shavings and peat was examined on
stable air quality and health of horses and stable workers. The ammonia level in the boxes
in which peat was used as bedding was non-existent or very low. The respiratory symptoms
in horses increased regardless of the bedding material at the beginning of the study. The
health status of the horses on peat bedding returned to the initial level in the end of the trial
but horses in stalls bedded with wood shavings continued to be symptomatic. The hooves of
the horses in stalls with peat bedding had a better moisture content. The results suggest that
peat is a better bedding material for horses and people working or visiting horse stables than
wood shavings.
Abstract: Stable air quality and the choice of bedding material are an important health issue
both in horses and people working or visiting horse stables. Risks of impaired respiratory
health are those that can especially be avoided by improving air quality in the stable. The
choice of bedding material is particularly important in cold climate conditions; where horses
are kept most of the day and year indoors throughout their life. This study examined the
effect of two bedding materials; wood shavings and peat; on stable air quality and health
of horses. Ammonia and dust levels were also measured to assess conditions in the stable.
Ammonia was not detected or was at very low levels (<0.25 ppm) in the boxes in which peat
was used as bedding; but its concentration was clearly higher (1.5–7.0 ppm) in stalls with
wood shavings as bedding. Personal measurements of workers revealed quite high ammonia
exposure (5.9 ppm8h) in the boxes in which wood shavings were used; but no exposure was
Animals 2015,5966
observed in stalls bedded with peat. The respiratory symptoms in horses increased regardless
of the bedding material at the beginning of the study. The health status of the horses in the
peat bedding group returned to the initial level in the end of the trial but horses bedded with
wood shavings continued to be symptomatic. The hooves of the horses with peat bedding
had a better moisture content than those of the horses bedded with wood shavings. The
results suggest that peat is a better bedding material for horses than wood shavings regarding
the health of both horses and stable workers.
Keywords: bedding material; respiratory health; peat; wood shaving
1. Introduction
The stalls of horses are bedded to absorb urine, moisture, and gases and to increase the comfort,
health, and well-being of the horses. In addition, a large number of people are engaged in the horse
industry as trainers, riders, stable workers, farriers, and other roles working or visiting stables for many
hours daily, and being subjected to the influences of the stable environment. Most of them are young
people, for example riding school pupils.
Horses in northern climatic conditions (e.g., in the Nordic countries and Canada) are exercised
outdoors usually for 1 to 2 h and spend, consequently, the major part of the day (often up to 23 h) indoors.
Because of this, stable air quality is of considerable importance. Furthermore, training and racing in cold
weather conditions expose the vulnerable respiratory system to health problems, increasing inflammatory
cells in the lungs [1]. As a consequence, respiratory disorders are common problems, and respiratory
allergy is commonly diagnosed as a condition affecting the equine lung. When the condition becomes
protracted it is referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heaves (or RAO, recurrent
airway obstruction), an animal model of asthma. Anecdotal reports suggest that the condition is rare in
climates where animals are outside all year around but is common in climates where horses are stabled
indoors [2]. Clinical signs in horses with this chronic lung disease include poor athletic performance,
chronic couching, purulent nasal discharge, and ultimately difficulties in breathing [2,3].
People working in and visiting horse stables may also be exposed to the effects of the stable air.
Causes of chronic airway disease both in horses and humans usually involve exposure to excessive
concentrations of airborne dust, molds, viruses, bacteria, spores, aeroallergens, and endotoxins which
mostly originate from bedding and feed [47]. Furthermore, the inhalation of gaseous irritants such
as ammonia may initiate airway obstruction and exacerbate or prolong the clinical signs of COPD in
affected horses [2] as well as humans [3].
The effect of bedding material on the quality of stable air, both on stable dust and the ammonia
concentration, is significant [8]. The various forms of bedding in a stable and even the differences in
beddings between boxes within a stable [8] influence the stable dust and gas loads, and consequently the
risk to airway health of both horses and humans.
Currently, several materials are available for the bedding of boxes in horse stables. The most common
bedding materials are wood shavings, saw dust, straw, and peat. Many other materials are also used as
bedding, including processed (pelleted) wooden materials and (pelleted, chopped) straw from different
Animals 2015,5967
plants. In addition, shredded or cut paper and some plant materials (by-products), as well as woodchips
are used. Each of these has individual properties, including advantages and disadvantages [9]. Stall mats
are also available, but they are usually used together with bedding because of the binding of urine. It has
also been reported that horses prefer bedding material for lying down as compared with areas without
it [10].
Factors considered when selecting bedding are its availability, cost, cleanness (free from dust and
foreign material) and its effect on stable air quality. The bedding material should also be easy and light
to handle, to avoid excessive physical exertion in stable workers. From the point of view of horses’
health and well-being, good bedding creates a layer of insulation between the horse and cold floor,
pads the hard surface, prevents bruised knees, elbows, hocks and hips, and keeps the horse clean. The
bedding material also affects the behavior of horses [1113], for example the incidence of stereotypic
behaviour. In addition, good bedding material has a better potential to be re-used e.g., in farming and
horticulture [14,15].
The objective of this study was to examine the effects of two different bedding materials, wood
shavings and peat, on the health of horses. This issue was evaluated on the basis of respiratory and
overall health and quality of hooves, and by measuring stable air quality.
2. Materials and Methods
The experiment was conducted in the facilities of MTT Agrifood Research Finland (MTT, currently
Natural Resources Institute Finland Luke) in the south western part of Finland (latitude 60˝) under
autumn/early winter (October to December) climatic conditions. The duration of the experiment was
84 days. Twelve Finnhorse brood mares (four of which were pregnant) aged between 5 and 17 years
were housed in box stables in individual stalls (3 m ˆ3 m), divided into separate sections of the stable
according to the bedding material (peat; wood shavings). The stable sections were of the same size and
had an identical mechanical ventilation system. The horses were held on pasture from the beginning of
June to the middle of September.
The two bedding materials were selected because they are the most common materials used for
bedding in Finland. They both have a low content of harmful components when manufactured, selected
and stored properly. Peat is favoured as a bedding material because of its good properties in soil
improvement and good composting ability, as well as its superior capacity to bind ammonia and
fluid [13,16,17] compared to other materials. Both bedding materials were manufactured for use as
beddings in horse stalls; peat by Vapo Ltd. (Jyväskylä, Finland) and wood shavings by Joutsenon
purupaali Ltd. (Joutseno, Finland).
The horses were exercised daily in paddocks in groups for four hours, and for one hour by riding
or driving during the course of the experiment. The stalls were manually cleaned by the same person
between 8 and 12 am when the horses were in outdoor paddocks. All feces and wet material were
removed and new bedding material was added. The depth of the bedding was about 10 cm. All removed
and added bedding materials were measured by their volume.
The horses were individually fed according to their needs three times per day (morning, noon,
evening) with silage/haylage (DM 26.6%–6.9%) and pelleted compounded feed (DM 88%) (Suomen
Rehu Ltd., Turku, Finland) to minimize the release of airborne particles from the feeds. The diet was
Animals 2015,5968
balanced for protein (nitrogen) intake to avoid nitrogen lost in urine and, thus, to minimize the ammonia
in the stable. The forage was produced by MTT and its fermentation and hygienic quality fulfilled the
criteria of good quality haylage and silage [18]. The forage was placed on the floor.
Outdoor temperatures and weather conditions were recorded daily at 8:00 am. The average outdoor
temperatures in October, November and December, respectively, were ´1.7 ˝C (´10 to 2 ˝C), ´3.8 ˝C
(´14 to 3 ˝C) and ´6.6 ˝C (´20 to 0 ˝C). According to the statistics of the Finnish Meteorological
Institute the temperatures in December were quite normal, but in November the daily temperatures were
highly variable, and in October the temperatures were exceptionally low.
The stable temperatures and humidity, as well as ammonia and carbon dioxide levels and amount of
dust, were measured daily in both stable sections. Methane (day 0) and hydrogen sulphide (days 0 and
42) contents were measured, but because of undetectable values the measuring was not continued. Gases
concentrations were measured at a height of 120 cm from the ground using an Accuro gas detection pump
which draws air through sampling tubes (Dräger Safety AG, Lübeck, Germany). The measurements were
carried out at 6:00 am in three boxes of each stable section; from the middle of the box at the level of the
muzzle of the horse. Dust was continuously collected into dust cases that were fitted in empty boxes in
both stable sections at the level of 40 cm from the ground.
Exposure of the stable workers to ammonia was evaluated with personal measurements using
sampling tubes attached to the lapel of the person (Dräger Safety AG, Germany) in the middle and
at the end of the experiment during the cleaning of the stalls. The measurement result was converted
to correspond to an exposure period of eight hours (HTP8h) [19]. HTP value is the concentration that is
harmful to people.
A respiratory endoscopic examination was performed three times during the study (days 0, 42 and
84), including examination of the ethmoidal region, pharyngeal openings of guttural pouches, soft palate,
larynx, and trachea (symptoms = 1; no symptoms = 0). Tracheobronchial aspirates were drawn during
the endoscopy and cytological and bacteriological (neutrophil cells) evaluation was carried out. The
classification of the neutrophil cells in bronchoalveolar smear samples was as follows: none or some
single cells (´); single cells and few small pool of cells (+); several large pools of cells (++); abundant
pools of cells (+++); and an extreme abundance of cells (++++).
Blood analyses, fecal analyses and hoof quality evaluation were used as measures of health and
well-being of the horses. These samples were taken with the same interval as the endoscopic
examination. In addition, rectal body temperature was measured and, heart rate (with stethoscope)
and respiration rate via auscultation were recorded by a veterinarian researcher. Blood samples were
collected from the jugular vein, and the blood analysis consisted of hemoglobin, haematocrit, serum urea,
iron, protein, and differential cell count. Bacteriology, parasites, and the pH of faeces were determined.
The quality of hooves was assessed from the dry matter content of hoof horn. The hoof horn samples
were collected from the hooves of front legs when the horses were in shoeing. All samples were analyzed
in the clinical laboratory of MTT.
The experimental design was a randomized block design with repeated measurements. After the first
endoscopy, the horses were formed into pairs based on their symptomatic similarity. The two horses
of each pair were then randomly allotted to different bedding material groups (peat bedding or wood
shaving bedding). The procedure was repeated until all horses were divided in the two groups. The
Animals 2015,5969
information from the first endoscopy was excluded from the data because it was included in the animal
pair-variable in the model. The data (samples from horses) were analyzed using the MIXED procedure
of the SAS system with the following statistical model: Yijk =µ+ pi+ bj+(pˆb)ij + tk+(pˆt)jk +
(bˆt)jk + eijk, where Yijk is the observation, µis the overall mean, piis the random effect of ith animal
pair (i= 1 . . . 6), bjis the fixed effect of jth bedding material (j= 1 . . . 2), tkis the fixed effect of
the time period (k= 2 or 3), and eijk is the normally distributed error with a mean of 0 and variance
δ2. Terms (pˆb)ij, (pˆt)jk and (bˆt)jk are compound effects of factors. The best fitting covariance
structure for repeated measurements was selected on the basis of the Akaike information criterion. The
differences were tested with Tukey’s test. Categorical variables (neutrophil cells in tracheal mucus) and
0/1-variables were not tested statistically, but were presented descriptively, because of the small number
of observations and their subjective scoring making them less informative.
In animal handling and sample collection, the European Union recommendation directives
(1999/575/EU) and national animal welfare and ethical legislation set by the Ministry of Agriculture and
Forestry of Finland were followed carefully. The experimental procedures were evaluated and approved
by The Animal Care Committee of MTT before the study was started. The endoscopic examination was
carried out and all samples from the horses were collected by a veterinarian researcher.
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Air Quality
The average temperatures in the stable sections (peat bedding vs. wood shaving bedding) in October,
November and December, respectively, were 9.2 vs. 10.3 ˝C, 9.4 vs. 9.4 ˝C, and 8.0 vs. 8.0 ˝C. These
temperatures are within the target indoor temperature range (8–12 ˝C) in horse stables in Finland [20].
The average moisture content of the stable air (peat vs. wood shavings) was 54.3% vs. 54.6%, 56.0%
vs. 57.6% and 53.0% vs. 58.6% in the corresponding months. During the lowest outdoor temperatures
the moisture contents were naturally at the lowest levels (38% to 44%). The moisture of the stable
air originates from horses’ respiration, urine, feces and drinking and washing water. Excessively high
temperatures and moisture may increase the release of ammonia from the bedding [21].
The bedding material numerically influenced the ammonia content of the stable air (Table 1).
Measurements we made early in the morning before any other activity in the stables. Thus, the ammonia
concentrations represent the situation at its worst after the night. The ammonia level in the middle of
the boxes in which peat was used as bedding was non-existent or very low (<0.25 ppm). However, the
ammonia concentration in the stalls with wood shavings as bedding was numerically (6–8 times) higher
(1.5–7.0 ppm) and at the highest close to levels (10 ppm) considered harmful [22]. The ammonia levels
observed in the present study were lower than recently reported gas levels in the morning in stables with
bedding consisting of pine wood shaving [23], but under warmer conditions (summer, in North Dakota,
US). Ammonia in the stable originates from urine. The urinary production depends the diet (N-intake)
and water intake. Both urinary production and N-losses increase with increasing N-intake [24]. In the
present study the diet was individually balanced for protein (N) intake, and excretion of N was not
obviously very high. There were no differences in ammonia concentrations in the stalls of horses on peat
bedding (0–0.25 ppm) because of the superior ammonia absorption capacity of peat. Concerning the
Animals 2015,5970
horses on wood shavings bedding the ammonia content varied between the horses (stalls) and measuring
dates from 1.5 to 7.0 ppm.
Table 1. Gas concentrations in the stable air.
Wood Shaving Bedding Peat Bedding
Day 0
Ammonia 0.5 ppm 0 ppm
Carbon dioxide 650 ppm 500 ppm
Hydrogen sulphide 0 ppm 0 ppm
Methane 0 ppm 0 ppm
Day 42
Ammonia 1.5–7.0 ppm 0–0.25 ppm
Carbon dioxide 500 ppm 700 ppm
Hydrogen sulphide 0 ppm 0 ppm
Day 84
Ammonia 4.0–7.0 ppm 0–0.25 ppm
Carbon dioxide 700 ppm 600 ppm
The amount of dust collected was small for both bedding types, and no major differences were
observed in dust measurements between the bedding materials. Both bedding materials were specially
manufactured for use in horse stalls. The carbon dioxide values were lower than the upper acceptable
limit values for horses (3000 ppm) and for humans (1000 ppm) [3]. Carbon dioxide levels were similar
in both stable sections.
The bedding materials also affected the environment of the people working in the stables. Personal
measurements of the ammonium exposure of the workers revealed was higher (5.9 ppm8h) in the boxes in
which wood shavings were used. No exposure was observed in stalls bedded with peat. This is important
to consider, because workers can spend a considerable amount of time each day in the stables. In this
study it took about 13 min to clean one box. According to previous studies, feeding and handling of
feed take about 5 to 7 min per horse per day [25,26], and cleaning the stalls (mucking out, replacement
of bedding materials) takes approximately 10 min per horse daily if no machinery is used [2527]. The
upper limit of HTP8h is, however, as high as 20 ppm [19].
Studies on peat as a bedding material are scarce. Airaksinen et al. [17] and Nikama et al. [15] have
reported a superior ability of peat bedding to bind ammonia, which is based on its low pH value. The
pH value of the peat for bedding (Vapo Ltd.) used in the present study was 4.0. The pH value of
wood shavings used here was not available, but according to a study the pH of wood shavings is higher
(pH 5.5) than that of peat [28]. Peat tended to create a better stable environment than pelleted sawdust
due to higher absorption of ammonia and lower levels volatile organic compounds [3], but no differences
between the bedding materials were observed regarding the amount of dust. However, depending on its
origin, peat has been shown to vary widely in dustiness and hygienic quality [17].
According to several other studies, the type of the bedding material has a considerable effect
on stable dust, ammonia, bacteria, and endotoxin concentrations in horse stalls [4,7,23,2931].
Animals 2015,5971
Fleming et al. [7] observed that the gaseous ammonia concentration was lowest when straw pellets
were used. The order based on ammonia concentrations among the studied bedding materials in their
study was straw pellets, linen, hemp, wood shavings, paper cuttings, and wheat straw. In a study by
Garlipp et al. [31] ammonia emissions from wood shavings were considerably lower than from straw.
In some studies mucking out and handling of bedding materials influenced the dust and gas (ammonia)
emissions in the stable [7,30,32]. In the present study, the ammonia content of the stable air was higher
when wood shavings were used, and during mucking exposure of ammonia occurred only in stalls bedded
with wood shavings, resulting from the superior ammonia binding capacity of peat.
Pelleting of the bedding material reduces the generation of airborne particles by the bedding
material [33]. Fleming et al. [30] found the lowest particle generation with straw pellets. In their
two studies [7,30] they concluded that straw pellets may promote an improvement in the stable climate
in relation to airborne particle formation, ammonia binding and ammonia transformation. Pelleted
newspaper also appears to have a good potential as a bedding material for horses [33].
In one study [34] the researchers observed that the generation of airborne particles in straw, wood
shavings, flax, and hemp can be reduced with a separation technology. They also found that the
generation of particles increased during the storage of the bedding.
Proper ventilation is important to remove moisture, gases, and dust and other particles from the stable.
However, in many cases the ventilation of stables does not provide adequate exchange of fresh air. Thus,
the quality and properties of the bedding material are of considerable importance.
3.2. Horse Health
The first endoscopic examination at the beginning of the experiment revealed that 4 of the 12 horses
had respiratory symptoms (+ . . . +++). Thus, moving the horses from pasture to indoor housing in
the middle of September (two weeks before beginning of the study) appeared to expose the horses
to respiratory disease because of the air quality of the stable. In a Swedish study the highest dust
measurements were observed in winter when the stable doors were closed [3]. Slightly increased airborne
bacteria levels were also observed in stables in September compared to other seasons in that study. In
the present study the frequency of respiratory symptoms increased in both groups during the first half
of the study period, but then decreased in the horses bedded with peat such that the number of horses
with symptoms in this group was the same at the beginning and end of the experiment. In the horses
bedded with wood shavings the number of symptomatic horses remained larger than at the beginning,
being twice of that compared to the horses with peat bedding (Table 2). Thus, the peat bedding seemed
to be a better bedding choice than wood shavings regarding the health of respiratory tract.
The number of neutrophil cells did not differ between the groups (data not shown). The
tracheobronchial aspirates obtained during endoscopy contained either scarce or moderate numbers of
neutrophils (peat bedding: ´. . . ++; wood shavings bedding: 0 . . . +++). An elevated number of
neutrophils or the detection of Curschman’s spirals is suggested to correlate with CODP symptoms [35].
One of the horses bedded with wood shavings had a high neutrophil percentage and also spirals in its
sample at the second and third samplings, and was therefore diagnosed as a CODP horse at that time.
Animals 2015,5972
Table 2. Symptomatic horses based on endoscopy examination.
Wood Shaving
Bedding Horse Day 0 Day 42 Day 84
1111
2000
3001
4111
5010
6011
Horses with symptoms 2 4 4
Total symptomatic
during the experiment 10
Peat bedding Horse Day 0 Day 42 Day 84
7010
8111
9010
10 0 1 1
11 0 0 0
12 1 0 0
Horses with symptoms 2 4 2
Total symptomatic
during the experiment 8
There were no statistically significant differences in blood parameters of the horses between the peat
bedding and wood shaving bedding groups (data not shown). The parameters in all horses were within
the range of reference values. The bedding did not affect the respiration or heart rate of the horses
(data not shown). The microflora of feces was also unaffected by the bedding, which is in agreement
with Tanner et al. [4] and Hübinette [36]. The pH value was somewhat lower (p= 0.01) in the horses
with peat bedding (6.78) than in those bedded with wood shavings (7.08) at the end of the experiment
(day 84), and the colour of their feces was darker, which was obviously a result of observed eating peat
in small amounts. Hübinette [36] found no effect of bedding material (wood shavings or peat) on the
faecal pH.
The moisture content of the hoof horn at the end of the study was higher (p< 0.05) in the horses
bedded with peat (32.6%) compared to the horses with wood shavings as bedding (30.5%). In the
middle of the study the difference was not statistically significant (peat 34.2%, wood shavings 33.2%).
Dryness of the hooves can cause problems when the natural elasticity and toughness is lost [37]. The
weakening of the hoof mechanism can lead to hoof cracks and impose an additional strain on the legs.
Tanner et al. [38]
found that the hooves were dryer and more caked when phone book paper was used as
a bedding material than in horses bedded on sawdust.
The results supported by literature [17,30] suggest that bedding materials have the potential to affect
stable air conditions and animal health and welfare. However, in some studies, no differences have been
Animals 2015,5973
observed. For example Tanner et al. [38] found no difference in the respiratory health of horses when
bedded with either sawdust or (shredded and milled) phonebook paper. However, the choice of bedding
material is especially important in cold climatic conditions, which forces horses to be kept indoors for a
large part of the year.
Although there appears to be clear differences in the properties and influences between various
bedding materials and types, the quality and origin of a particular bedding is important regarding the
airborne dust concentrations originating from the bedding material [17,30,39], and stable owners and
managers should thus also pay particular attention to this issue when selecting bedding materials.
Horses appear to have individual preferences for bedding material, and no significant overall
preference for example for either wood shavings or straw was observed [12]. Werhan et al. [13] also
found individual differences, but the horses generally preferred straw. The authors concluded that on
the basis of the longest time being occupied, straw seems to support the welfare of the horse better than
wood shavings or straw pellets.
3.3. Consumption of the Bedding Materials
The consumption of bedding materials differed considerably. The consumption of peat was 59% of
that of wood shavings (by volume), obviously due to its superior ability to bind liquids. This affects the
cost of bedding as well as the need for storage for both bedding material and manure, thus influencing
the construction costs of the facilities.
3.4. General Discussion
An issue of increasing importance is the influence of manure on environment, which means that
the amount of manure produced should be minimal and that it should be easily used as a fertilizer or
in soil improvement [14,15], or even as a source of energy, for example in methane production [40].
Rapid composting and a good ability to bind and transfer nitrogen are important properties of peat
bedding requested by farmers and other users of manure. Poeplau et al. [41] reported positive trends in
organic carbon storage in Swedish agricultural soils due to increased horse industry and horse manure
use in agriculture during the past two decades. It is also important that the bedding material can be
easily handled in the stable, which is influenced, for example, by how it is packed, or how much it is
consumed daily.
Peat is a good alternative for bedding material in those countries where it is produced for
agricultural/horticultural or energy use, for example in the Nordic and Baltic countries, Russia, Poland
etc. However, it is important to consider that agricultural peat soils should be managed sustainably
and that cultural and socio-economical aspects of peatlands are taken into account [42]. In many
other countries, such as in The Netherlands and Germany, the percentage of remaining pristine mires
is small [43].
The battery of methods used to monitor indoor air quality and animal health in the stable was
limited in the present study. In addition, outdoor exercise of the horses makes this issue complicated
to investigate, regardless of the methods applied. Horses also individually differ in their sensitivity
to exposure to environmental factors, i.e., their genetic predisposition for example, to RAO [44]. On
the other hand, many studies regarding airway health have been field studies without a controlled or
Animals 2015,5974
standardised environment, e.g., examining bedding and feeding practices and outdoor exercise. The
findings of the present study suggest that further research with a large sample size would be warranted
in order to gain a better understanding on the effect of bedding materials on stable air quality and health
and wellbeing of horses.
4. Conclusions
The results suggest that choice of bedding material is of large importance regarding stable air quality,
at least in terms of the ammonia level. Both horses and people working in stables are exposed to ammonia
if the ability of the bedding material to bind gases and fluids is poor. This may predispose both horses and
humans to airway diseases. Based on the results, peat is superior to wood shavings regarding the ability
to bind ammonia and reduce ammonia concentration and the risk of ammonium exposure of horses and
stable workers. It seems also that horses on peat bedding may have better airway health. The moisture
content of the hooves of the horses on peat bedding was higher compared to those bedded on wood
shavings. The findings suggest that further research with a larger sample size is warranted.
Author Contributions
Markku Saastamoinen designed the experiment with Susanna Särkijärvi, who also analyzed the data.
Seppo Hyyppä took the samples and carried out the endoscopic examination and analyzed materials
concerned. Markku Saastamoinen wrote the paper.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest. The study was partly financed by Vapo Ltd. having no
role in the design of the study; in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data; in writing of the
manuscript, and in the decision to publish the results.
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© 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
... Bedding materials create variable quantities of inhalable and respirable particles, and have different qualities regarding their abilities to absorb moisture, ammonia, and variable concentrations of microbes and endotoxins (10,(12)(13)(14)(15). Scarce scientific literature exists concerning the effects of bedding material on equine airway inflammation (15,16). Peat bedding is empirically considered a good choice for horses suffering from respiratory disease, but there is lack of scientific evidence supporting this (16). ...
... Bedding materials create variable quantities of inhalable and respirable particles, and have different qualities regarding their abilities to absorb moisture, ammonia, and variable concentrations of microbes and endotoxins (10,(12)(13)(14)(15). Scarce scientific literature exists concerning the effects of bedding material on equine airway inflammation (15,16). Peat bedding is empirically considered a good choice for horses suffering from respiratory disease, but there is lack of scientific evidence supporting this (16). ...
... In this study, higher percentages of neutrophils in lower airway samples were detected when horses were kept on wood shavings compared to peat. This finding is in line with the study of Saastamoinen et al. (16), who found increased tracheal mucus scores in horses kept on wood shavings compared to peat. In the present study, an increase in neutrophils was detected in both tracheal wash (TW) and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF), indicating that an increase in neutrophils also occured in the bronchoalveolar level. ...
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Bedding materials affect stable air hygiene, and thus the development and exacerbation of equine asthma. There is limited knowledge concerning the effects of different types of bedding material on equine lower airway inflammation. The objective of our study was to investigate the effects of bedding materials on respiratory signs, tracheal mucus score, and lower airway cytology in healthy adult horses. The study design was a prospective controlled study, and the subjects were healthy adult riding school horses (n = 32) from a single stable. Wood shavings were compared to peat, which was used as a reference bedding material. Lower airway endoscopy and sampling (tracheal wash and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid) for cytological examination were performed after each 35-day bedding period. No difference between bedding periods was observed in the respiratory rate or tracheal mucus score. Tracheal wash neutrophil percentage with the wood shavings was higher compared to the previous (P = 0.040) or following (P = 0.0045) peat period. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid neutrophil percentage with the wood shavings was higher compared to the following peat period (P < 0.001). We conclude that, between the two bedding materials used in this study, peat caused less neutrophilic lower airway inflammation in horses. The information gained from this study may assist veterinarians and horse owners in selecting bedding materials, especially for horses suffering from equine asthma.
... The scenario of the hot environment also needs some considerations regarding moisture and insulation properties [5]. Bedding also prevents bruised knees, elbows, hocks and hips, and keeps the animals clean [4,6,7]. Therefore, it is important to study different bedding systems that help animals maintain their physiological status to fight against diseases and keeping with optimal production (Sanford et al. 2002) [8]. ...
... Bedding surface is also responsible for the contamination of animal hides (Ward et al., 2001), which take these pathogens to slaughterhouses, directly posing a risk of foodborne illness [12,13]. The production of different gasses in different beddings also has a significant contribution to animal, workers and environmental health [4]. ...
... The ammonia emission in case of wooden shavings based bedding is lesser than the straw [31], chopped newspaper, chopped corn stalks, and recycled manure solids [21], but higher than straw pellets [30] and peat [4]. Moreover, alike wood chips, the biotransformation of wood shaving based manure produces lesser amounts of pollutants as compare to other beddings. ...
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Bedding material is an important constituent of the animal production system. It is a key factor not only in the wellness and comfort but also for biosecurity measures applied for disease control and prevention programs. Animal production industry uses many types of bedding materials including, wood shavings, grass straws, paper, corn cobs, and rice husk, depending on the availability, price, hygroscopicity, animal comfort and environmental concerns. This review discusses the opportunities of using wood by-products like wood shavings, sawdust and chips in animal production, and their effect on health and welfare of animals and also on environment. Additionally, the microbial perspective of wood based beddings has been highlighted because generally it is considered as unhygienic material, however recent researches has shown the antimicrobial effects of this material, which can be utilized in production systems to counter the disease and lower the biological risk to health of animals, workers and environment. Approaches in Poultry, Dairy & Veterinary Sciences (2576-9162) 6(4). APDV.000644.2019.
... Due to the high prevalence of respiratory diseases, especially equine asthma, amongst horses worldwide and the importance of air quality on the pathophysiology of these diseases, bedding choice should be considered fundamental. Scarce scientific literature exists focusing on the specific effects of bedding material on equine airway inflammation (12)(13)(14), as most of the research on the matter has covered various combinations of feed and bedding material (1,5,8). ...
... The BALF neutrophil percentage was higher during the Peat 3 period compared to the Peat 2 period, but there was no difference in TW neutrophil percentages between these bedding materials. Our hypothesis, formed from practical experience of peat being a good choice for horse bedding when lower airway inflammation is being considered, is supported by research from the last few years (13,14). A previous study (14), performed with the same horses as those in the current study, concluded that the lower airway samples had higher neutrophil percentages when horses were kept on wood shavings compared to peat. ...
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The effects of bedding material on air quality are important amongst horses worldwide. Respiratory diseases, especially equine asthma, are highly prevalent with air hygiene playing a major role on the pathophysiology of these diseases. The objective of our study was to investigate the effects of four bedding materials on the respiratory signs, tracheal mucus score, and tracheal wash (TW) and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) cytology in healthy adult horses. The study design was a prospective controlled cross-over study, and the subjects were healthy adult riding school horses ( n = 32) from a single stable. Wood pellet, straw pellet, and loosely stored peat (Peat 3) were compared to peat packed in plastic-covered bales (Peat 2). Lower airway endoscopy and sampling (TW and BALF) for cytological examination were performed after each 35-day bedding period. The tracheal mucus scores ( P = 0.014) and respiratory rate ( P = 0.026) were higher during the straw pellet period compared to the Peat 2 period. The respiratory rate was lower during the wood pellet period compared to the Peat 2 period ( P = 0.004). The TW neutrophil percentage during the straw pellet period was higher compared to the Peat 2 period ( P = 0.0003). The BALF neutrophil percentage was higher during the straw pellet period ( P = 0.005) and during the Peat 3 period compared to the Peat 2 period ( P = 0.04). We conclude that baled peat (Peat 2) caused lower neutrophil percentages in the airway samples compared to straw pellet and loosely stored peat (Peat 3). No difference was observed between Peat 2 and wood pellet. The information gained from this study may assist veterinarians and horse owners in selecting appropriate bedding materials, especially for horses with equine asthma.
... This higher requirement of carbon was observed in feed preparations of the large animals including cows, horses, and pigs, respectively. Additionally, the abundance of carbon in horse manure could indicate the presence of some additional carbon bedding mixed with the horse manure in the feeding pen [50,51]. ...
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Anaerobic digestion (AD) of organic waste is considered a sustainable solution to energy shortage and waste management challenges. The process is facilitated by complex communities of micro-organisms, yet most wastes do not have these and thus need microbial inoculation using animal manures to initiate the process. However, the degradation efficiency and methane yield achieved in using different inocula vary due to their different microbial diversities. This study used metagenomics tools to compare the autochthonous microbial composition of cow, pig, chicken, and horse manures commonly used for biogas production. Cows exhibited the highest carbon utilisation (>30%) and showed a carbon to nitrogen ratio (C/N) favourable for microbial growth. Pigs showed the least nitrogen utilisation (<3%) which explains their low C/N whilst horses showed the highest nitrogen utilisation (>40%), which explains its high C/N above the optimal range of 20-30 for efficient AD. Manures from animals with similar gastrointestinal tract (GIT) physiologies were observed to largely harbour similar microbial communities. Conversely, some samples from animals with different GITs also shared common microbial communities plausibly because of similar diets and rearing conditions. Insights from this study will lay a foundation upon which in-depth studies of AD metabolic pathways and strategies to boost methane production through efficient catalysis can be derived.
... Share of peat in bedding materials used on animal farms and consumption by animal species 10 The challenge in animal husbandry is to find materials to replace peat which can achieve the corresponding qualities as bedding material and other uses. Additionally, material choices should take into consideration their impacts on the health of both animals and people working at animal facilities 12,13,14 and on the quality of products. ...
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... According to Hadin et al. [55], two crucial factors [34] in the methane yield are the type and amount of bedding material used, which affects the content of lignocellulosic material, degradability, and thereby, the biogas potential. Bedding material is used to collect and absorb feces and urine in housing, creating dry and clean spaces for horses [56]. However, this work only was considered horse dung, which is located in specific city points (dunghill), generated during the use of the horse as a traction animal vehicle. ...
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Anaerobic digestion technology is a feasible alternative for wastes environmental treatment, nutrients recovery (as biofertilizer) and biomethane production. In Cuba, several wastes energy potentials have been evaluated, however, other biomass like horse manure (HM), rabbit manure (RM), and goat manure (GM) has been little studied. This study aims to determine the biochemical methane potential contained in herbivorous animal manures (horse, rabbit and goat) for energy purposes in Cuban context. Anaerobic digestion batch assay in 0.5 L reactors, using a mixture of pig and cow manure anaerobic sludge as inoculum, was performed under mesophilic conditions (35 ± 2 °C) during 40 days. The methane yield potentials of 245, 326 and 112 L CH4 kg/VS were obtained for horse, rabbit and goat manures, respectively, influenced by the difference in their digestive system to digest the grass feedstock. The highest rabbit manure methane potential results attractive for domestic digesters, in which experience is very limited. In addition, due to the availability of horse manure in many municipalities of Cuba, the generation of electricity from this manure (128 GWh/year) could replace 1.4% of the electricity consumed by households, making it promising to further exploitation considering the expected 2030 energetic matrix changes using renewable energy.
... does not lead to fungal problems that can be experienced with woodchip and straw (Lesté-Lasserre 2016; Saastamoinen et al. 2015;Sellers 2016). The extraction of Brue valley peat by Glastonbury Abbey is first documented in the early thirteenth century (Williams 1970, 29). ...
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Beckery Chapel, near Glastonbury, is the site which has the earliest scientific dating evidence for monastic life in the UK, and later in the medieval period became a Chapel that played a significant role as a destination for pilgrims, as part of the Glastonbury Abbey estate. The site was previously excavated in the 1880s and the 1960s, and in 2016 the South West Heritage Trust excavated a building, that proved to be an outbuilding used when the medieval chapel was in operation. Soil micromorphological analysis was conducted first to understand the sediments within the profile from this building, which appeared fairly homogenous and bioturbated in the field. It untangled the bioturbation processes and revealed a rare northern European, geoarchaeological example of a livestock enclosure from a dryland context in this temperate environment. The results of our innovative multi-proxy approach highlight the potential and methodological considerations for future studies to integrate micromorphology, palaeoparasitology and mycology to examine animal management on dryland archaeological sites. They increase the knowledge of the economic activities of the ecclesiastical occupation at Beckery, contributing to an enhanced understanding of the Chapel site, its wider landscape and its role as part of the Glastonbury Abbey estate.
... Furthermore, unhealthy diets, especially highly concentrated and sugar-containing diets, can cause diseases such as equine metabolic syndrome [109]. If keeping horses in stables with bad air quality and low hygiene, horses and their keepers can develop respiratory problems, like the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [110,111]. Other NCDs such as Colitis-X, Caprophagy in foals or Buttress foot can be influenced by humans as well [112]. ...
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Choice tests are an effective means of assessing the short-term environmental preferences of captive animals. The preferences shown by eight thoroughbred horses (Equus caballus) for three commonly used bedding materials (paper, straw and shavings) were investigated. For each preference test two choices were presented in separate boxes joined by an imbedded corridor. Time spent in each compartment and associated behaviours were recorded. Despite a positional bias, horses clearly showed a preference for straw bedding (42·9 (s.e. 3·6) %) over shavings (35·-2 (s.e. 3·4) %, P < 0·05;, straw (42·0 (s.e. 3·7) %) over paper (29·3 (s.e. 3·4) %, P < 0·05) and shavings (41·6 (s.e. 4·3) %) over paper (27·7 (s.e. 3·7) %, P < 0·001) based on percentage of observed time spent on the substrate. Straw bedding increased the occurrence of bedding related activities, with more of these activities in choices where straw was available (P < 0·001) and in these choices the activities being preferentially expressed in the straw alternative (P < 0·001). Straw may therefore be preferred as it allows the expression of a wider number of motivationally significant activities.
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Full-text available
Soil organic carbon (SOC) plays a crucial role in the global carbon cycle as a potential sink or source. Land management influences SOC storage, so the European Parliament decided in 2013 that changes in carbon stocks within a certain land use type, including arable land, must be reported by all member countries in their national inventory reports for greenhouse gas emissions. Here we show the temporal dynamics of SOC during the past two decades in Swedish agricultural soils, based on soil inventories conducted in 1988–1997 (Inventory I), 2001–2007 (Inventory II) and from 2010 onwards (Inventory III), and link SOC changes with trends in agricultural management. From Inventory I to Inventory II, SOC increased in 16 out of 21 Swedish counties, while from Inventory I to Inventory III it increased in 18 out of 21 counties. Mean topsoil (0–20 cm) SOC concentration for the entire country increased from 2.48 to 2.67% C (a relative increase of 7.7%, or 0.38% yr−1) over the whole period. We attributed this to a substantial increase in ley as a proportion of total agricultural area in all counties. The horse population in Sweden has more than doubled since 1981 and was identified as the main driver for this management change (R2 = 0.72). Due to subsidies introduced in the early 1990s, the area of long-term set-aside (mostly old leys) also contributed to the increase in area of ley. The carbon sink function of Swedish agricultural soils demonstrated in this study differs from trends found in neighbouring countries. This indicates that country-specific or local socio-economic drivers for land management must be accounted for in larger-scale predictions.
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Choices of the bedding material is important especially in the Northern climate conditions conditions, because the horses are kept most part of the day and year indoors during their life. Especially, the effect of the bedding material on the quality of stable air is of great importance. Based on their properties, it seems that peat and straw pellets are the most suitable beddings for horse stables. Also pelleted newspaper seems to have a good potential as a bedding material.
Book
Equine Nutrition and Feeding has become the standard work on the subject, covering every aspect of the nutrition of breeding, growing and working horses, describing the basis upon which scientifically derived conclusions for nutrition and dietary requirements are reached. Following the last edition in 1998, the book has been extensively updated, revised and rewritten with reference to well over 400 papers that have been published since 1998 on equine science. It has been made more practical by setting out the implications of new research for feeding programmes and it includes a full account of the toxicology and metabolic and other diseases, related to diet. Their causes and control are discussed and comprehensive lists of definitions of the terms and abbreviations used are given.
Article
A comparative composting trial with wood shavings (WS), sawdust (SD) and peat moss (PM) was carried out under field conditions. In each, fresh material was mixed with cattle manure in a 2:1 ratio by volume. The initial pH of the WS, SD and PM composts (CST) were 6.2, 5.1 and 5.3, respectively. The chemical and biological changes in CST related to maturity were determined. Samples taken at 0, 12 and 24 mo of composting were also mixed with soil and increasing rates of N and tested as growing media for faba beans (Vicia faba L.) and corn (Zea mays L.) under greenhouse conditions. During composting, the C/N and E 4 /E 6 values decreased in all cases but much more rapidly in WS pile. Thus, after 36 mo of composting, the C/N value decreased from 43 to 17 in WS pile and from 48 to only 35 in PM pile. As indicated by a low C/N ratio (17) and lower humic absorbance values (E 4 /E 6 = 6.4), WS material was practically mature after 24 mo, more rapidly than SD and PM composts which presented initial lowest pH values. The microbial respiration rate (CO 2 ), the pH and N–NO 3 values increased during composting in all materials but much more in WS than in SD or PM pile. All composts were not harmful to plant growth even after a short time of composting (12 mo), but yields increased with the duration of composting. These data showed that it was possible to obtain, in field conditions, a compost from ligneous materials in 24 mo. Key words: Compost, composting, corn (Zea mays L.), faba beans (Vicia faba L.), microflora, peat moss, sawdust, wood shavings
Article
It can be a challenge to find suitable horse bedding materials that provide higher moisture absorption, better animal comfort, greater fertilizer values, and improved indoor environment. Our first objective was to determine the water absorption capacity (WAC) of two bedding materials, flax shive (FS) and pine wood shavings (PWS), commonly used by equine facilities. The second objective was to measure ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations emitted from these bedded stall surfaces. In this study, the WAC of bedding materials were measured at 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24 hours in the laboratory. A total of eight horses were used for a 14-day study period. Of these, four horses (group-1) were bedded with FS and the other four (group-2) were bedded with PWS for week-1. In week-2, bedding materials were switched between the two groups. Ammonia and H2S were measured in situ. For GHG measurement, air samples (methane [CH4], carbon dioxide [CO2], and nitrous oxide [N2O]) were collected 152 mm above the bedded stall surface in Tedlar bags using a vacuum chamber and analyzed for GHG using a gas chromatograph. The WAC of FS was 56% greater than the PWS. There were no significant differences in NH3, H2S, CH4, CO2, and N2O concentrations between the two bedding materials (P>.05). Nutrient contents between fresh and soiled bedded samples for each bedding type were different (P <.05). Measured nutrient contents between fresh FS and PWS and bedded FS and PWS bedding materials were similar (P >.05).
Article
ABSTRACT The bedding preferences of ponies were determined using video recordings of nighttime (1900 to 0700) behavior of individually housed ponies. The ponies' behavior each minute was recorded to determine time budgets. In Exp. I, preference for bedding was determined using three mares, three stallions and two geldings given access to bedded and unbedded areas in a box stall. The ponies spent more time (66%) on the bedded area and were never observed lying on the unbedded areas. In Exp. II, three mares and six stallions were given access to a box stall, one side of which was bedded with wood shavings and the other with straw. Although some individual animals preferred one bedding over the other, neither form of bedding was preferred consistently. Time budgets in Exp. II were similar on both bedding materials. The ponies spent 12% of their nighttime lying, 2% walking, 35% eating and 50% standing inactively. Some ponies had a relatively strong preference for bedding, but the type of bedding,preferred varied with the individual animal. Some individual ponies had no clear preference, but instead had a side or position preference. (Key Words: Behavior, Horses, Floor Types, Bedding, Animal Welfare.) J. Anim. Sci. 1989. 67:1986-1991
Article
The aim of this study was to analyze the influence of horse manure added to different bedding materials on the generation of gases (ammonia (NH3), nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor) from deep litter bedding under standardized laboratory conditions. Two different types of straw (wheat and rye) and wood shavings were analyzed. The deep litter (substrate) was made of 25 kg of the respective bedding material, 60 kg horse feces, and 60 L ammonium chloride solution (urea), and spread out in identical chambers over 19 days (n = 3). On days 1, 8, 15, and 19, total nitrogen, total carbon, and dry matter content of the substrate, as well as the pH in 500-g samples, were measured along with. At the end of each test period, the nitrite nitrogen, nitrate nitrogen, and ammonium nitrogen contents of the leachate were analyzed. The wheat straw substrate emitted the highest concentration of NH3 (4.31 mg/m3; P < .0001) and the wood shavings substrate emitted the lowest (1.73 mg/m3; P < .0001); the rye straw substrate generated 3.05 mg/m3. In addition, significant differences occurred during days 1 to 3 with respect to the generation of the gases NH3, methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and water vapor, and after the opening of the chamber on day 15. The nitrogen losses through the leachate occurred mainly in the form of nitrate, where the leachate from the wheat straw substrate had a significantly higher amount of nitrate nitrogen (44.56 mg) as compared with the leachates of the rye straw (14.49 mg; P ≤ .0001) and the wood shaving substrates (22.62 mg; P = .0010).