Shortage of Wood Bedding Ongoing, Could Intensify

The housing market downturn is affecting more than just developers and realtors. Some horse owners have a new challenge in locating adequate, affordable bedding for their animals.

Jeannie Queen of Clear Vision Equine, based in Williamstown, Mass., recently had a surprise when she went on what she thought would be a quick trip to pick up 15 bags of pelleted bedding at her local feed store.

"They were out, and I had to drive an hour to another location," Queen said. While that store had some in stock, she noted, they would not be receiving any more due to a plant closure.

Roger Vlietstra, materials manager at American Wood Fibers' plant in Schofield, Wis., said they've been seeing supply issues for nearly three years.

"Supply from the home-building industry is down 50-60%," said Vlietstra. "And prices for shavings have gone up 30-40%, due to tightening supply combined with the high transportation costs of the past year."

Competition from pet bedding, fuel pellet manufacturing, and ethanol production markets is another factor in reported shaving shortages.

Bedding alternatives are available; however, horse owners should understand there are potential health concerns associated with bedding sources.

According to Jim Brendemuehl, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, Equine Extension and Theriogenology veterinarian at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, in Urbana, Ill., these threats include:

  • Toxins (such as black walnut, which can cause laminitis);
  • Dust and mold, potential triggers of respiratory inflammation; and
  • Foal health problems caused by aspiration of small particles.

While Queen said she has noticed only a slight price increase in her preferred brand of pellets, she's already looking into bedding alternatives for her three horses. "I think this is only the beginning of problems for us horse owners, and that it'll snowball from here," she said.

About the Author

Lisa Kemp

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