In sheep production, the choice of bedding material affects production costs, animal growth, and animal welfare, but few organic alternatives to straw have been evaluated. In this study, 96 entire male lambs (19.11. ±. 1.07. kg live weight, approximately 80 days old) were fattened for 14 days on straw, cellulose, rice husk, and sawdust in two replicate trials. The pH, dry matter (DM), bacterial count, water absorption capacity and ammonia concentration of each bedding material were calculated before and after fattening. A score was developed to visually assess the dirtiness of bedding and lambs, in addition to a behavioural analysis of activity. Straw was the cheapest material (total cost €1.00 per pen), followed by rice husk (€2.35), cellulose (€2.80) and sawdust (€13.50). The latter had the highest water absorption capacity and the highest final pH, compared to cellulose with the highest final DM. Straw had the lowest final DM, upon which lambs spent a slightly higher percentage of time lying (79%) than cellulose (75%), which was dryer and produced cleaner animals. Lambs on straw spent slightly more time eating (7.2%) compared to the other substrates. In conclusion, although straw may be the cheapest bedding, cellulose and rice husk are viable alternatives. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
- Ovis aries