Cow bedding options

Trials conducted over the past decade on bedding options and how they perform in terms of comfort, hygiene, cleanliness, and welfare and cow preference.

Promoting an environment on which cows want to lie down is about more than just comfort. The bedding material you choose plays a important role in preventing mastitis, reducing injury, regulating temperature and fitting into the overall management system.

One measure of bedding quality is the concentration of environmental pathogens, which play a role in milk quality and are major causes of mastitis – clinical and subclinical. Environmental pathogen concentrations are impacted by the dry matter and pH of the bedding materials. As bedding dry matter increases, the concentration of environmental pathogens decreases, and as the pH of the bedding material increases, environmental pathogen concentrations increase.

Both of these factors impact the quality of bedding material. This is why cubicles need to be cleaned each milking, or at least twice daily. Moisture from the ground lead to elevated bacteria counts also. There tends to be a seasonal effect on the concentration of environmental pathogens in bedding material, with summer having the highest concentration of pathogens likely due to temperature and humidity.

You can control contamination of teats from environmental pathogens with good management practices. Teats become contaminated through contact with contaminated bedding and other environmental risks. The number of bacteria on the teat end has been positively correlated to the number of bacteria on bedding. Adequate amounts of dry bedding ensure minimal contamination of teat skin with bacteria. There are a number of factors that lead to increased bacterial population of bedding material including ambient temperature, humidity, bedding management, ventilation, cow density, , bedding dry matter and bedding storage.

Keep beds dry

Regardless of what type of bedding is used it should be dry

Any bedding that is wet or damp will increase the bacterial growth; bedding should be stored in a dry environment. Bacteria love moist warm environments

Bedding must be comfortable to lie on.

Dry bedding is critical year-round for cow comfort and to reduce pathogen growth. As bedding dry matter increases, bacterial populations have been shown to decrease. (Bedding is one of the primary sources of exposure to environmental pathogens, and maximum bacterial growth occurs within 24 hours and up to 48 hours of adding bedding material.)

Good footing from bedding prevents injury in the stall and in the passage-way.

Nonabrasive bedding promotes cow comfort and aides in injury reduction.

Bedding should drain well to keep cows dry and limit pathogen growth.

Bedding material should provide ease of use,

Sand and straw improve the physical cleanliness of cubicles compared with sawdust, but straw and sawdust register higher bacteria counts than sand (the major pathogens associated with bedding materials being Streptococci, coliforms.

Sand is the ideal cubicle bedding surface for the dairy cow because it limits bacterial exposure to the teat end and provides cushion, traction and support for the cow when she is lying down and during the standing and lying process.

Sand is hard to handle and can block drains and wear out equipment.

You need to ask your self are your cows worth the hassle?