March 22, 2016
By: Jonathan Brant
Most areas of the United States enjoyed a reasonably mild winter this year. This was great for those of us that like to spend time outdoors with our horses and it certainly made chores easier to accomplish. So, not much to complain about there.
However, many people use alternative energy derived from wood fuel pellets to heat their homes. As manufacturers of wood fuel pellets ourselves we are well aware of the volatility of the pellet fuel market. It doesn’t take a prodigious analytical mind to understand that mild winters require less heat for comfort. The result of which becomes a glut of fuel pellets sitting in dry lots and warehouses all across the country. Also, consider the competition offered by low fuel and natural gas prices and you have the perfect storm for producers that rely solely on pellet fuel sales.
Equustock makes horse bedding and Equustock also makes fuel pellets. We know the difference, but do you? This topic also begs the question: do other fuel pellet manufacturers know the difference? (and…do they even care?).
Many companies selling wood pellets as horse bedding began their existence as fuel pellet manufacturers. I can only believe that someone, innocently enough, stumbled into an alternative use as horse/animal bedding completely by accident. I mean, you burn wood, but it’s not inconceivable that someone unintentionally spilled water on a pellet and realized that the pellet soaked up the moisture. And that dear friends, begat the question: Hmmm, what else can we do with this? Ans.: Well, how about we have a bag printed up with a picture of a horse on it. Then, we can market directly to the equine community and move all of this fuel pellet inventory off of our dry lot (or out of our warehouse). Actually, this is exactly what happened with the first bedding pellets on the market back in the 80’s. It wasn’t until Equustock came along and developed a truly different process for our horse bedding pellet vs. fuel pellet product that anyone realized the difference, and just how important the difference would be.
As stated previously, Equustock manufactures both fuel and animal bedding and yes, not only do we know the difference but we care about it, too. We do not employ the same production methods in producing either fuel or bedding.
Our manufacturing process considers particle size, dust screening and aspiration. This is important as fuel pellet production requires the inclusion of exactly the same dust particles that contribute to respiratory threats in a horse to be a necessary binder within the fuel pellet.
We can produce a fuel pellet faster, with higher bulk density for burning while trapping fines and dust within. The fines are necessary to help the burn rate achieve a desired BTU. However, in animal bedding the fines need to be screened out to produce a safe, low dust, long lasting and hard-wearing footing.
But perhaps the most important consideration relates to the raw material used for production. Typically, hard woods are preferred as fuel by many consumers. That is because it is widely perceived as burning hotter and producing lower ash content than a softwood. While this assumption has been proven incorrect through third party testing, the belief continues to endure in some circles.
Regardless, Equustock does not integrate any hardwood substrate within either horse bedding or fuel pellet production so as not to risk exposure to hardwood dust. That is why it is critically important for us as horse owners to remain aware of exactly what we’re putting into our stalls. I have referenced toxic hardwoods in a previous article but let me touch on that topic once more so we all understand the threats: The common hazards include Black Walnut (toxic), Red Maple (toxic), Black Cherry (toxic), Cedar (allergies), Cypress (allergies), dust, moisture content, mold, excessive oils. Now, Black Walnut (toxic), Red Maple (toxic), Black Cherry (toxic) are all hardwoods. There is simply no way to know if any of these substrates are included into a fuel pellet who’s packaging simply says “Hardwood Pellet” or for that matter “Fuel Pellet”. The manufacturer is not going to break this down for you in a statement on the bag. I can’t think of a good argument why a fuel pellet manufacturer even would.
Which brings us all back to the beginning…
Mild winter results in a glut of fuel pellets taking up space on dry lots and warehouses. Please, understand that this is inventory that already represents a substantial investment and we’re going into Spring/Summer with virtually no hope of moving it until Fall. It is not a great stretch of the imagination to assume that some of this fuel pellet inventory can be repackaged and sold as animal bedding in an effort to reduce current stockpiles. As a matter of fact, this is typically done every year but this year, we are witnessing the practice at a faster pace. Costs are lower for fuel producers due to the cost of low value source material. This creates the motivation to repackage these potentially dangerous pellets and subsequently flood an alternative market. Consequently, the equine bedding market needs to bear higher pricing not only because of more expensive and cleaner source material but the additional production processes of dust screening and aspiration in order to produce a consistent, safe and acceptable product for both animal and human protection.
When it comes to the care and safety of our horses we will sacrifice our own comfort rather than compromise their health. Do not use a fuel pellet in your stalls even though the price is cheaper; it could cost you even more in money, not to mention the health risk to you and your equine companions. Only use bedding the manufacturer unequivocally states as softwood on the packaging. Rely on the trusted and familiar names that specialize in horse bedding and be suspicious of new brands that appear suddenly and without a traceable history.
Equustock has been producing Guardian Horse Bedding uninterrupted since 2001. We use only approved 100% bio-based raw material sources for all of our products. We manufacture an exclusively pine product in our Premium Flake Shavings, Gold Standard Small Shavings, Swift Pick Mini Shavings and Premium Bedding Pellet. Our manufacturing process includes multiple levels of high heat treatment, aspiration and screening to produce 4 distinct and unique products in the equine bedding marketplace to cover the scope of preference among the most discerning and caring horse caretakers. Our packaging protocols are second to none to ensure a safe and consistent product from plant to farm.
Guardian Horse Bedding was conceived and created by horse people for the horses they love. It can be your safe resource for the horses you love, too. If Guardian Horse Bedding is not in your area, feel free to call us and discuss your regional bedding choices.
By: Jonathan Brant
Equustock, LLC< Back to Resources