Alternative Horse Bedding: Corn Cobs

04.13.2016
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by Matt
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6 Comments
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Ready to give shavings the boot? If you’ve been thinking for a while, “maybe using chopped up trees as horse litter isn’t the best idea,” you’re in luck. There are a variety of new, environmentally-friendly bedding choices on the market. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of one such choice, corn cob bedding.

Corn cob, ground up and processed into pellets with steam and water, creates an absorbent, biodegradable bedding for horses. The bedding composts much faster than wood shavings (some manufacturers state their bedding composts in as little as six months), giving cob bedding an extra point in the sustainability column. If you’re looking for bedding which is earth-friendly, additive-free, and can give back to your farm in the form of compost, it may be time to investigate cob bedding.

Much like pelleted wood shavings, cob bedding breaks down under the horse’s hooves over the course of about twenty-four hours, and you can speed up that process with a light misting of water. Clean the stall as you would with any other bedding, removing wet spots and manure. Since cob bedding does not contain any deodorizing elements, you may want to sprinkle wet spots with a stall freshener to neutralize lingering ammonia.

Users’ most frequent complaint is that their horses nibble at the cob bedding. In most cases, this tendency ends itself as the novelty wears off. However, as with straw bedding, some horses just can’t help themselves, so keep a close eye on your horses when transitioning to cob bedding. Although cob bedding is a fiber, a constant nibbler could make himself sick.

One change you may have to get used to: cob bedding doesn’t have that pine-fresh aroma we automatically associate with fresh wood shavings. Reports differ on whether cob bedding even has a scent, with some users reporting their bedding is essentially odorless. Others find it has a rather distinctive scent that takes a little getting used to.

Cob bedding is a biodegradable, absorbent, and compostable alternative to wood shavings that could be an important next step in making farms more sustainable. Have you tried cob bedding in your stalls or run-in sheds? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments!

6 responses on “Alternative Horse Bedding: Corn Cobs

  1. Craig Coker says:

    I have been asked to design a composting facility for a horse farm in NC that is now using corn cob pellets for bedding. It seems to me that the manure being cleaned out of the stalls is heavier and denser than one with wood shavings as bedding. Do you know of any horse farms composting manure using this bedding product I might speak with, please?
    Thanks,
    Craig Coker
    Coker Composting & Consulting
    http://www.cokercompost.com

    • Matt Johnson says:

      Unfortunately, we are not aware of anyone using corn cob pellet bedding. Typically, our clients bed with either wood shavings or wood pellets, and the reason why I wrote this post. Corn cob pellets are like the wood version. Regarding pellets, our friend Peter Moon of O2Compost wrote, “With horse manure and wood pellet bedding, there is a significant reduction in volume of wood mixed in with the manure and therefore it is much closer to the ideal C:N (Carbon to Nitrogen balance) ratio. In addition, the wood particles that are in the waste are fine textured (i.e., have a very high surface area), thereby exposing more of the wood surface to the microbial activity. As a result, the rate of composting increases dramatically and the finished product quality is far superior to that of shavings-based compost.” I would contact a bedding manufacturer like Best Cob LLC, and inquire if you can speak to any of their clients.

  2. Marilyn Wotowiec says:

    I only use corn cob bedding for my poultry, but am having trouble finding a supplier. It’s better for the enviroment and the animals.

  3. I have just heard of using the corn cob bedding for horse stalls. My question is can you use the corn cob on the bottom of the stalls then use wood shavings on top of the corn cob shavings for extra bedding? Also my horse has allergies so I’m careful about the dust he inhales. I have read the reviews both pro and cons and find it more confusing. The Tractor Supply near me does carry it for 40lbs at $9.99. Would like to try this but a little fearful after reading some of the reviews. Do you or anyone have more information on using this product for horse stalls? Is it safe, less dust, more absorbent, ect. Thank you for your help.

    • Matt Johnson says:

      You can layer both corn cob and shavings, but keep in mind that they’ll mix together and you’ll lose the advantage of the corn cob being easier to clean. Corn cob bedding is considered to be lower dust than shavings, but you should definitely check with your vet before making any environmental change that could aggravate your horse’s allergies.

      • Melissa says:

        Hi Sharon!
        I just started using the corn cob bedding in my barn. I have always used shavings and pellets in the past but the dust, good grief the dust! And it seems that dampening the stalls only helps to make the dust worse I swear! So one day I came across this corn cob bedding and decided to give it a try. I mixed it in with the pellets as I was transitioning over to minimize any eating that others have mentioned. Although if my horses happen to come upon a cob in their hay (its been known to happen occasionally) they always leave it untouched so I figured this shouldn’t be an issue (and so far, knock on wood, it hasn’t). Anyways I really like the bedding. Its more fluffy than pine pellets but still is substantial. Urine seems to make the bedding heavy and it clumps up a bit. its not hard to find the urine spots – the bedding turns super dark in those spots. Its $4.49 at Rural King and $9.99 at Tractor Supply (same size bags but different manufacturers. I’ve only tried the Rural King brand Becks Better Bedding so far but I plan to pick up a few bags of the other brand at Tractor Supply to compare.

        Sharon – if you tried out the bedding, I’d love to hear your opinions as well! I’m constantly looking for something that is economical but also minimizes dust!

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