Are You Getting All Your Shavings'

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Baled shavings are sold by volume, not by weight. The volume is marked on the bag, but because the shavings are compressed you can’t tell just by looking whether you actually are getting that amount.

The economic impact of undersized bales is quickly obvious if a bale that is marked 3.6 cubic feet contains only 2.88 cubic feet. If you paid $5 for that bale, you’re really getting only $4 worth of shavings. If you purchased a truckload of 1,000 bales, then you’ve lost $1,000 without even realizing it.

Plus, with the current shortage of baled shavings and bulk sawdust (see March 2001), you need to know how much bedding you really are buying. You may run out of bedding sooner than anticipated and may not be able to restock in time.

The first sign that you have a full bale or undersized bale is whether it sticks together in a brick or falls apart easily when you break it open. A bale that contains all usable shavings compresses to a tighter brick and holds together better than a bale that also contains sawdust filler. Another sign is whether you get a cloud of dust when you break apart the bale. You not only want a bale of shavings that is free from sawdust because it contains more bedding, and therefore is more absorbent, but also to avoid dust that may be inhaled by your horse.

The following method will allow you to measure how much shavings you are actually getting in a bale. This method was published by Long Beach Shavings Co. in Long Beach, Calif., (call 800/439-5527 or visit and is based on information from state and federal standards of measurement.

1. Determine the volume of the rigid container. Measure in inches the interior length, width and height. Multiply those numbers together to get the number of cubic inches inside the box. Convert that number to cubic feet by dividing by 1,728. (1 cu ft = 1,728 cu in.)

2. Determine how many times you need to fill your box in order to equal the same amount of shavings as stated on the bale. Divide the number of cubic feet on the bale by the cubic feet of your measurement box from Step 1. This equals the number of times you should be able to fill your box.

Example: You buy a bale marked 3.6 cu ft. You have a cardboard box with an interior measurement of 18”x12”x15”. In Step 1, you determine that your box can hold 1.875 cu. ft. of loose material (18x12x15/1,728=1.875). You then decide how many times you can fill your measurement box (3.6 cu ft/1.875=1.92).

3. Open the bale on the tarp and fluff it up completely. Break up all the clumps. Gently scoop up the material with a shovel and place (don’t pour) shavings into the measurement box. Be careful not to further settle the material by bumping, banging or dropping the box. You should handle the shavings sort of in the same way that a baker handles sifted flour.

When the box is overfilled, run your straight edge along the top to level out and then pour off the excess shavings. Empty the level measured shavings into a second pile and repeat the process until the entire bale has been measured. Using the above example, you should be able to fill the box just less than two times.

If the bale quantity is stated in “compressed amount” as well as “loose-fill, usable amount,” use the loose-fill quantity. If it is stated in only “compressed amount,” call the manufacturer and ask how much loose-fill material is warranted to be in the bale. A bale may vary by 5%.

Other factors such as shavings size and your measuring technique may affect your final outcome. However, if you feel you have received less than 90% of what was promised by the manufacturer, you may want to take steps to get a refund or find a different source of shavings. Of course, switching sources may not be easy during a shortage or when you don’t have many sources of shavings in your area.

Also With This Article
Click here to view ”Measuring Tools.”