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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • biocompost;
  • wood shavings;
  • bedding material;
  • air hygiene;
  • respiratory health

Summary

Reasons for performing study: Bedding material in stables has an important influence on air hygiene and information on the suitability of biocompost and wood shavings is incomplete.

Objectives: To compare the suitability and benefit of biocompost and wood shavings as bedding in horse stables and to determine key air factors for the evaluation of the potential impact of these materials on respiratory health.

Methods: The study was conducted in a naturally ventilated stable with 4 horses. Air hygiene parameters were measured 24 h/day for 7 days with each bedding type: ammonia (NH3), inhalable and respirable dust, endotoxins, colony forming units (CFU) of total mesophilic bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes and thermophilic actinomycetes. Both bedding materials were analysed for general chemical composition, particle size distribution and natural microbial content. The animals' behaviour was monitored by video cameras, and their health and cleanliness status determined by clinical and visual examination.

Results: Concentrations of NH3, dust, endoxins and fungi were significantly higher during the monitoring period with wood shavings than with biocompost. In contrast concentrations of mesophilic bacteria, mesophilic actinomycetes and thermophilic actinomycetes microbial pollutants were highest with biocompost. The water content of bulk biocompost was considerably higher than that of wood shavings. Particles ≤0.4 mm were not detectable in bulk wood shavings. The concentration of thermophilic actinomycetes by weight in raw biocompost was 639 times higher than in raw wood shavings. No significant differences were observed in the time spent by the horses lying down. The biocompost material tended to adhere more intensively to the animals' hair coat. Horses showed no clinical signs indicating any adverse effects of the biocompost material during the trials.

Conclusions: Biocompost cannot be recommended as bedding material for horses in stables, because the concentration of thermophilic actinomycetes and other agents that elicit and maintain recurrent airway obstructions was significantly higher with biocompost than with wood shavings. To ensure the well-being of horses, any new bedding material must be tested very carefully before it is introduced to the market.