Ogallala, Neb., company produces environmentally safe livestock bedding from cardboard | TheFencePost.com

Ogallala, Neb., company produces environmentally safe livestock bedding from cardboard

Teresa Clark

Producers can now purchase environment friendly livestock bedding at a cost comparable to sawdust and wood shavings. Western Resources Group (WRG) in Ogallala, Neb., started producing this Eco-Shred bedding made from cardboard in April.

According to Kurtis Olson, plant manager of WRG, the eco-shred bedding is made from 100 percent recycled, high quality cardboard. Although WRG receives aluminum cans, 1 and 2 plastics, magazines and junk mail, the amount of cardboard they receive each month outnumbered these other products.

"We receive about 50 tons of cardboard every month," Olson said. "We have dumpsters and roll off containers within a 30-mile radius of WRG. We have them throughout Keith County, and in Perkins, Lincoln and Deuel counties."

The goal of this project is to maintain a green concept, create jobs at a local level and keep these materials out of the landfill.

"We are environmentally conscious, but not to the detriment of sound economic principles," Olson said. "WRG was looking for something that wouldn't cost a lot to get started, and utilize a product we were already collecting. The WRG Board of Directors decided to go with the corrugated cardboard shredded bedding concept. Cardboard remains a constant, renewable recycling staple in most communities nationwide."

The company purchased a shredder that was used in North Carolina to shred tires, Olson said.

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"We brought it here, set it up and now we shred cardboard and bale it," he added. "Most of the bales weigh about 50 pounds, but we can also make bulk bales that are 1,200 pounds."

They also have loose bedding available in bulk. During the shredding process, drum magnets are attached to the conveyor systems which remove 99.9% of any metallic material attached to the cardboard on the first conveyor. The redundant second conveyor will catch and remove any staples that may get missed by the primary system.

The Eco-Shred bedding is gaining popularity with livestock producers, horse owners, kennels and poultry farms. Olson said these producers have found shredded cardboard bedding to be three times more absorbent than wood shavings and healthier for their animals.

"A lot of trees are diseased that are shredded for sawdust or wood shavings," Olson said. "Those products could have fungal spores, beetles and fecal material from squirrels, raccoons, possums and birds. We actually provide a line of cardboard bedding to veterinarians for post-surgery that is not sterile by laboratory standards, but it is a lot cleaner product because it doesn't have bird droppings and other contaminates that are found in forestry products."

Shredded cardboard bedding also has some outstanding thermal insulation qualities and is virtually odor-free. To help reduce the ammonia smell that can accrue during the winter when animals are indoors more, customers can add a pine scent to the bedding.

Olson said it is also ideal for customers with allergies. In an auction-setting, people who cannot attend because they are allergic to cedar or pine shavings don't have a problem with the shredded cardboard. This product also has minimal dust, thanks to a vacuum system that captures and extracts a fair amount of the dust during the shredding process.

The product has thus far been most popular among sale barns and the equine community.

"Horse owners like it because when they are trailering their horses, a lot of the wood shavings get airborne and end up caught in the horse's mane and tail. The shredded cardboard doesn't do that, which means it is also safer for the horse's lungs," Olson said. "Horses and other animals can get the equivalent of COPD. They can develop lung conditions, and some customers have switched to shredded cardboard bedding because of that."

Livestock producers are also showing more interest in the product, which Olson said is comparable in cost to wood shavings and sawdust. Some customers have begun to purchase it for their egg laying hens because they don't scratch it all out of the nesting box, like they do wood shavings. Olson said these customers say the hens like the shredded cardboard better because it isn't prickly or scratchy.

"It lasts longer than wood shavings because the cardboard will absorb urine rather than displacing it like wood shavings. In low humidity areas, the cardboard bedding will also allow some of the moisture to evaporate," he said.

In some informal tests Olson has conducted, the shredded cardboard holds about three times as much moisture as wood shavings. The used bedding can be disposed of like sawdust or wood shavings.

"It is much more user-friendly and breaks down quicker than wood shavings, especially cedar," Olson noted. "Shredded cardboard can also be applied to a garden or a field. It can be used as compost, and makes an excellent soil builder or fertilizer because it doesn't alter the pH of the soil like wood shavings."

Olson said the company plan to perform some studies with local extension specialists to see how shredded cardboard affects future plant growth and soil pH this summer.

This recycling project has earned national recognition from Keep America Beautiful. WRG was named one of the recipients of the 2015 National Community Improvement Award for recycling and waste reduction. It will receive this award in February.

In the future, Olson hopes to see the company continue to grow.

"We have a lot of room for expansion here," he said. "We have a lot of indoor storage, and we are only using about half of our property right now. We want to get more equipment in here in the future, and get some larger companies and big box stores to provide us with some additional cardboard."

The cardboard needs to be in good condition to be shreddable.

"It can't be saturated or wet, because it won't shred well," Olson noted. "Most of our containers have lids to keep it dry. If it does get too wet, we bale it and ship it to a company in Kansas that can dry it out and shred it to use in composite roofing material."

As WRG gains customers, they continue to look for distributors to handle the product. Currently, eco-shred bedding can be purchased at the plant in Ogallala, Brighton Feed and Saddlery in Brighton, Colo., and in some stores in Hershey, Lincoln and Scottsbluff, Neb. ❖

For more info

To learn more about Eco-Shred bedding or to become a distributor, see their website here, or call (308) 284-7353 or (308) 289-5543.