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Farmers turn to peat for animal bedding

August 24th, 2018 9:22 PM

By Brian Moore

Skibbereen businessman Dan Connolly (right) with truck driver Marty Paisley, Tullamore, at a delivery of brown peat to be used as an alternative bedding for animals. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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THE first delivery of peat moss for animal bedding to a farmer in West Cork is now in place.

Agricultural contractor Dan Connolly wanted to do something to help local farmers who are facing tough times ahead due to the drought conditions and the fodder crisis.

‘The price of straw is now anywhere between €30 to €40 a bale and with farming now using these bales as fodder for cattle, the need for bedding is a major concern,’ Dan told The Southern Star. ‘I saw that there is huge concern among farmers and I wanted to see what can be done to provide a suitable bedding.’

Dan’s first delivery went to Norman O’Donovan on his farm outside Skibbereen.

‘Peat moss, which is coming directly from Tullamore, is not only an excellent alternative to straw but is also a very good fertiliser that can be spread after it has been used as bedding and we’ve had a lot of interest and orders from local farmers,’ Dan said.

He will supply peat moss directly from Tullamore to West Cork at €20 a cubic metre, with a high-cube articulated trailer of between 100 and 110 cubic metres.

 ‘If you want to collect the peat moss yourself prices start at €12 a cubic metre plus VAT, ex-Tullamore,’ Dan said.

‘Gurteen Agricultural College has used peat for bedding dry cows and weanlings for a number of years,’  Teagasc area manager John Horgan said. ‘They have found a deep layer works best, 76 cm (2.5 feet) is placed in the back of the pen and it slopes down to 25 cm (10 inches) near the slats where the animals feed. 

‘When the top layer becomes wet the whole lot is dug up, placed out into the yard, mixed up and put back in. 350m3 (14 silage trailer loads) was used in the winter of 2017/2018 to bed 50 dry cows and 140 weanlings for five months. The experience of other farmers is that bedding with a 15cm layer is simpler in that it can be topped up or cleaned out as required.’

Other alternatives to straw bedding, which have been trialled, and used with varying degrees of success, include woodchip, rushes, wood shavings or sawdust and miscanthus.

‘Despite the challenges we face in terms of providing adequate feed and bedding we will have to provide animals and calves in particular with a “dry lie” next winter. There are viable alternatives to the use of straw as bedding especially peat, slats for calves and rubber mats in calving pens,’ John concluded.

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