Pop cans and water bottles aren't the only things collected for recycling at Minnesota's Canterbury Park. The small-grain straw used to bed the racetrack's horses is reused, too. It's collected daily during the racing season, spread on a nearby 25-acre field for drying, then is baled and sold.

“Most racetracks try to recycle their bedding in some manner,” says Mark Erickson, Canterbury's vice president of facilities. “Some compost it, while others sell it to mushroom farmers or burn it for heat.

“It's more economical for us to recycle the straw vs. renting more land to spread it on,” he adds. “With our close proximity to Minneapolis-St. Paul, finding additional land is difficult and expensive.”

Canterbury Park, in Shakopee, stables up to 1,400 racehorses from mid-April to mid-September, so it generates large amounts of used bedding every day.

“Our horsemen or trainers clean and rebed their stalls daily with generous amounts of clean straw or pine-wood shavings,” says Erickson. “The bedding could be used longer, but the horsemen prefer not to.”

The horsemen are responsible for depositing the used bedding in 200 front-load garbage bins located throughout the Canterbury grounds. The straw and shavings are kept separate. (The shavings are composted and sold as fertilizer to garden centers.)

A local garbage service picks up the straw-filled bins and empties them into trucks that in turn dump the straw in large piles at the field. Next, a local custom baler loads it into a manure spreader and spreads it 4-6” deep.

“He'll usually spread the straw in the morning, rake it into windrows, let it dry for a few hours and then start baling,” says Erickson. “If it rains, he'll wait a day to bale it.”

Last year he made over 4,500 round bales weighing 1,200 to 1,500 lbs each.

Canterbury's markets for the straw include local feedlot owners who use it as bedding and highway construction companies and building contractors who use it for mulch.

“There's some dried urine and a little bit of manure in the bales, but they're not very visible and there's very little odor,” says Erickson.

Net-wrapped bales sell for $10 each; twine-wrapped bales, for $7. “Most years, the bales sell quickly, but with the downturn in the housing market recently, we have extra on hand right now,” he says.

Jerry Doyle, who grows 300 acres of row crops and runs a 200-head feedlot near Henderson, MN, has used the recycled straw for several years.

“I used to spread old, rained-on meadow hay on my concrete feedlot, but I like the straw better. It's low-cost and breaks down quickly in the soil,” says Doyle.

He spreads a fresh bale or two a couple of times a week. “The straw helps prevent the cattle from slipping and provides a little bit of warmth in winter. The bales are pretty clean and a dry feedlot helps prevent illness.”

Even after transporting the bales from the racetrack, Doyle is money ahead. “Considering the cost of fuel and my time, I can't put up the bales myself for $7 apiece,” he says.

For details, contact Erickson at meerickson@canterbury.com.