Last Updated on March 18, 2022 by Allison Price
Straw is the fibrous crop residue of plants that have been harvested for their seeds. The straw in Standlee is the leftovers of wheat or barley cultivation. After harvesting the wheat or barley for grain, the straw is bundled and taken from the field. The straw is used for livestock bedding, but there are many other uses.
So the question is: Is straw safe to use for horse bedding? Horses can become ill from straw if it is too dry or moldy. Horses can have respiratory problems from mold and dust. Horse bedding should not contain moldy or dusty straw. Straw bedding can also pose a problem if horses consume a lot of it. The plants that are grown for grain (seed) production are usually very mature when they are harvested. Straw is fibrous, and therefore has a high level of lignin. Lignin fiber is the fiber that gives plants their strength so they can stand up in the field. When we compare grass hay at normal maturity to straw, we see that grass hay has a NDF of 62% and a 5.8% lignin. Straw has a NDF of 73% with a 7.5% lignin.
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Horses cannot digest lignin fiber. Horses can become irritated if they eat large amounts of straw. If not treated properly, this can lead to severe colic or even death. Horses who are well-fed don’t usually eat large quantities of straw bedding. Horse owners should take out straw bedding from horses if they notice it is being consumed.
Although straw is a common choice for horse bedding, Standlee doesn’t recommend it if the animal has a tendency to eat the straw.
Standlee suggests that such animals be removed from straw bedding in order to prevent potential health problems and replace straw with a different bedding source. IE: clean, dust-free shavings.
Straw is safe and all-natural for small animal bedding (e.g., chickens, rabbits or dogs). Straw can be used for erosion control, composting and other purposes.