Free stall management key to dairy herd health

US - Constant changing of bedding for dairy cattle, whether it’s sawdust, wood shavings, or straw, may be a large chore.
calendar icon 19 January 2007
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But properly managed and maintained free stalls are essential to ensure cow comfort and cleanliness, and to reduce injuries, according to Richard Wallace, University of Illinois Extension dairy veterinarian.

“The purpose of bedding is twofold — cow comfort and mastitis control,” Wallace said during the recent Illinois Dairy Days program held in Eureka.

Producers can use everything from sawdust that is from hardwood and kiln-dried to sand, chopped paper, straw, and cornstalks, Wallace said.

A key to maintaining good bedding is “good maintenance” by monitoring daily the condition of the stalls and scraping any manure or wet spots from the stall beds, he said.

Proper stall maintenance “reduces friction and reduces the incidence of lameness and, for mastitis control, it absorbs moisture and maintains cleanliness of the teats, udders, legs, and flanks,” Wallace said.

Producers who spot dairy cows with dirty flanks or udders and/or injuries should examine their bedding, he said.

Those who suspect bedding problems and who would like to obtain a bedding culture for their operation may call the University of Minnesota Laboratory of Udder Health at 800-605-8787 to obtain information about submitting a sample.

Otherwise, one bedding alternative more dairy producers in Illinois may want to consider is compost for dairy barns, according to Dave Fischer, U of I Extension dairy educator.

Source: FarmWeek
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