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J Dairy Sci. 2019 Jul;102(7):6682-6698. doi: 10.3168/jds.2018-15851. Epub 2019 May 23.

Efficacy of recycled sand or organic solids as bedding sources for lactating cows housed in freestalls.

Author information

University of Wisconsin Marshfield Agricultural Research Station, Marshfield 54449.
Department of Animal Nutrition and Feed Science, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193.
USDA-Agricultural Research Service, US Dairy Forage Research Center, Marshfield, WI 54449. Electronic address:
Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706.
Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Marshfield, WI 54449.
USDA-Agricultural Research Service (retired), US Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, WI 53706.
USDA-Agricultural Research Service, US Dairy Forage Research Center, Marshfield, WI 54449.
USDA-Agricultural Research Service (retired), US Dairy Forage Research Center, Marshfield, WI 54449.


Our objective was to compare the composition of bedding materials and manure, cow welfare and hygiene assessments, measures of milk production and quality, and incidence of mastitis during a 3-yr trial with lactating Holstein cows housed in a freestall barn containing 4 identical pens with 32 freestalls/pen. Bedding systems evaluated included deep-bedded organic manure solids (DBOS), shallow-bedded manure solids spread over mattresses (MAT), deep-bedded recycled sand (RSA), and deep-bedded new sand (NSA). The experiment was designed as a 4 × 4 Latin square with 4 bedding systems and 4 experimental periods, but was terminated after 3 yr following discussions with the consulting statistician; therefore, data were analyzed as an incomplete Latin square. A total of n = 734 mostly primiparous cows (n = 725 primiparous, n = 9 multiparous; 224 to 267 cows/yr) were enrolled in the trial. Before placement in freestalls, organic solids (OS) exhibited lower concentrations of dry matter (36.5 vs. 94.3%), and greater concentrations of volatile solids, C, N, NH4-N, P, water-extractable P, K, and S compared with RSA or NSA. Cow comfort index was greater for sand-bedded systems compared with those using OS (88.4 vs. 82.8%). Cows bedded in systems using OS (DBOS and MAT) exhibited greater mean hock scores (1 = no swelling, no hair loss; 2 = no swelling, bald area on hock) than those bedded in sand (1.25 vs. 1.04), but this effect was entirely associated with use of mattresses (MAT), which differed sharply from DBOS (1.42 vs. 1.07). Generally, hygiene scores for legs, flanks, and udders were numerically similar for DBOS, NSA, and RSA bedding systems, and differences between bedding systems were associated entirely with MAT, yielding detectable contrasts between MAT and DBOS for legs (2.94 vs. 2.20), flanks (2.34 vs. 1.68), and udders (1.83 vs. 1.38). No significant contrast comparing bedding systems was detected for measures of milk production or quality. Documented cases of clinical mastitis requiring treatment ranged from a low rate of 7.4 cases/yr for RSA to a high of 23.1 cases/yr for DBOS, based on a mean enrollment of 60.7 to 63.0 cows/treatment per yr. Cows bedded with OS exhibited a greater incidence of mastitis than those bedded with sand (19.0 vs. 8.4 cases/yr), but no differences were observed for comparisons within individual bedding-material types. Collectively, these results generally favored use of sand-bedding materials over systems using OS.


bedding; freestall; organic solid; recycled sand


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