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Sand Bedding for Dairy Cows: Benefits, Cubicles, and Manure Handling

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  10th International Livestock Environment Symposium (ILES X)  .(doi:10.13031/iles.18-003)
Authors:   Andrew W Wedel
Keywords:   Bedding, cow comfort, cubicles, freestalls, sand bedding, sand-laden manure, sand-manure separation.

Abstract. The purpose of cubicle (freestall) bedding is to provide a clean, dry, and comfortable resting surface for the cow. A clean surface reduces the possibility of bacterial infections, mainly from mastitis. Bedding should be clean and dry, thereby making it an inhospitable environment for bacterial growth. Providing a soft surface increases cow lying time and reduces the possibility of injury. Sand as a bedding material in cubicle housing has gained worldwide acceptance due to its favorable attributes related to cow health and comfort. Dairy producers using sand bedding report higher milk production, less lameness, fewer cases of mastitis, and increased reproduction rates. Dairy facilities are commonly designed with sand in mind and reflect the proper cubicle design. Additionally, many dairies have successfully converted non-sand facilities to accommodate sand.

Manure handling is a perceived detractor of sand bedding. Some producers are willing to forgo the positive attributes of sand in favor of perceived simplicity of manure handling. Having evolved over the past thirty years as sand has gained prominence, a host of systems exist for effectively handling, storing, and treating sand-laden manure with some systems capable of recycling sand bedding from manure.

The purpose of this paper is to describe the current practice of using sand bedding in cubicle housing. The specific, quantifiable benefits of sand will be discussed along with stall design and management. The paper also discusses the methods for converting non-sand bedded cubicles to sand. In addition, proven systems for handling sand-laden manure are discussed.

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