August 25, 2023
minute read

Biochar Basics: Livestock Bedding

On farm, our biochar is a valuable addition to animal bedding in both cubicles and loose housing. When added to a base bedding material such as straw other mixed with sawdust, our biochar can provide benefits including: improved nutrient retention, decreased ammonia emissions, improved foot health and odour control. This Biochar Basics will explain how it works to provide these benefits, and how to use it to get the best outcome on your farm.

What does our Biochar do in Bedding?

1. Works as a Bedding Desiccant and Adsorbent

Its high porosity at multiple scales and considerable water holding capacity make biochar an effective desiccant in bedding. Biochar is an effective adsorbent, which means that both organic molecules, such as amino acids, fatty acids, proteins and urea, as well as mineral compounds, stick to biochar surfaces and are retained. Keeping bedding clean and dry makes it more comfortable for the animals and improves hygiene. this reduces the risk of diseases such as mastitis and dermatitis and can improve yield.

Biochar adsorbs, rather than absorbs, organic compounds like amino acids, fatty acids, proteins and urea.

2. Increases Nutrient Retention

Urea excreted on bedding is captured on and within biochar particles. This prevents volatilisation and ammonification of the urea compounds, which in turn increases nutrient retention. Using biochar-enriched bedding as a component in organic fertilisers, like when incorporated as farmyard manure, improves its nutritional value to crops and can limit the requirement of additional inorganic fertilizer application.

3. Reduces Ammonia Emissions

The high adsorption capacity and pH of biochar makes it possible to reduce the use of lime in cubicle bedding. Urea and amino acids can bind to biochar particles, preventing conversion to ammonia, in turn reducing ammonia emissions in housing and improving nitrogen retention.

💡Using Biochar Effectively in Livestock Bedding

Whilst biochar improves animal bedding and housing conditions, it is important to ensure that biochar is appropriate for use in animal housing. Tailored biochar specified for use in bedding should be used.

  • The bacteria which convert urea into ammonia are most effective in conditions around pH 8.5-9. Selecting biochar with the right pH can promote acidification, lowering the pH of bedding below this range and reducing ammonia emissions.
  • Tailored biochar should be added at a rate of 5-10% by volume to bedding, ensuring adequate concentration to improve bedding conditions, without impacting on visual cleanliness.
  • Certified biochar, which is free of contaminants and toxicants must be used to prevent any potential issues from ingestion.
  • The use of Black Bull Biochar can optimise the performance of biochar in bedding and provide access to application advice from our biochar experts.
Biochar applied to bedding in calf pens

When used in bedding, biochar can reduce ammonia emissions by up to 44%, improve livestock foot health and reduce veterinary costs.
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