Industry figures say it may be prudent to stock up on horse bedding ahead of the winter now, due to an increase in prices.

Costs are rising because horses being kept in for much of the winter, plus a decline in the building trade, of which shavings are a by-product.

Frank Thorogood of Thorogoods, Essex, reports that shaving prices have gone up 8%, with other processed bedding rising by approximately 4%.

“Price increases depend on timber prices [as timber sourcing increases in cost due to increased prices of machinery, diesel, manpower etc] and we had to put our prices up by 10 pence a bale in January,” said Tim Smalley, managing director of Bedmax.

Demand for shavings has increased, as it has become harder to access straw.

April Gingell of the British Straw and Hay Merchants’ Association told H&H that there’s not a lack of straw, just a lack of smaller bales.

“The demand isn’t there; farmers want big bales so smaller ones, which horse owners need, aren’t being produced as much,” she explained.

“And because of that you could find yourself paying the same for a small bale as a big one.”

With wheat straw averaging £66 a tonne at the moment, and about three large bales to the tonne, a big bale costs around £22.

Adrian Cannon of Tayler and Fletcher auctioneers in the Cotswolds agreed small straw bales were scarce.

“This may affect the cost of bedding drastically next winter,” he warned.

“Small bales are in high demand and the wholesale cost of wheat straw is up by £1 per tonne compared with last year.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (23 May 2013)