Miscanthus and hemp as alternative bedding material for horses

Project Abstract

Certain characteristics exemplify good bedding material for animals. These include its ability to absorb moisture and odor from urine and feces, provide protection from abrasive flooring, and provide warmth. The most common bedding materials used for horses are wood shavings, sawdust, or straw. Alternative materials used with other species include hemp and miscanthus. It is possible that these materials may perform better than common products, but testing with horses is limited. A pilot study was conducted to compare bedding characteristics of sawdust, hemp shavings, and chopped miscanthus as bedding materials for stalled horses. Sawdust and hemp were commercially produced and purchased. Miscanthus was grown, dried, and processed at the Murray State University West Farm. Treatments were evenly distributed between twelve stalls with horses randomly assigned to treatment. The order in which stalls were selected for evaluation of bedding characteristics was random. Bedding characteristics were evaluated daily by both stall cleaners and assigned reviewers, and included: urine containment (well, some, poor), ease of cleaning (easy, moderate, difficult), presence of odors (none, some, lots), and appearance (attractive, moderate, unattractive) of the bedding. Evaluations were performed using a standardized rubric based on a Likert-type scale for scoring, and comments were collected. After 10 d, the bedding was stripped from the stall and a different bedding evaluated. Routine daily exercise and turnout schedules were maintained, but horses spent the majority of their time in stalls. Chi-square tests were performed using the PROC FREQ procedure of SAS to determine the relationship between bedding types and characteristics with significance declared at P < 0.05. Differences were found between bedding types for urine containment, ease of cleaning, appearance, and odor (P < 0.0001). Sawdust was reported to contain urine well 79.9% of the time as compared to only 49.1% and 39.9% for hemp and miscanthus, respectively. Stall cleaners indicated that sawdust was easy to clean 65.6% of the time, while hemp and miscanthus were more difficult to clean (29.7% and 71.6%, respectively). Sawdust was reported to have no odor 100% of the time, while miscanthus (8.2%) and hemp (10.7%) were reported to have either some or lots of odor. Finally, sawdust, hemp, and miscanthus were found to be attractive 94.9%, 61.3%, and 37.6% of the time, respectively. Miscanthus was reported as unattractive 35.3% of the time as compared to sawdust or hemp (0.8% and 18.2%, respectively). In conclusion, sawdust performed better than hemp and miscanthus as bedding material for stalled horses.


Conference name: Two meetings combined: National Association of Equine Associated Academics Annual Conference, and Equine Science Society Symposium (held every 2 years)

Dates: NAEAA June 2-3, 2019 and ESS June 3-6, 2019

Sponsoring body: NAEAA and ESS

Conference website: NAEAA, http://naeaa.com/ and ESS, https://www.equinescience.org/2019/

Funding Type

Travel Grant

Academic College

Hutson School of Agriculture


Equine Science


Bachelor of Science




Mrs. Cheryl Porr, PhD

Academic College

Hutson School of Agriculture

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