Are Sand or Composted Bedding Cubicles Suitable Alternatives to Rubber Matting for Housing Dairy Cows?

  • Mike Steele Inspire Cattle Solutions, Granborough Road, Winslow, Buckinghamshire, MK18 3BP UK



Open Access Logo



PICO question

In [Dairy Cow Management] do [Sand OR composted bedding] compared with [rubber matting] result in [fewer disease incidence] consequences?

Clinical bottom line

Clean, deep-bedded sand appears to be associated with the best outcomes in clinical mastitis, cow cleanliness, subclinical mastitis, cow lying times, hock lesions and cow preference. Recycled sand, composted manure and other deep-bedded systems also appear to have increased cow comfort and hygiene indices versus mattress systems. Deep-bedded, composted manure systems can also have better outcomes concerning Gram positive and negative bacterial growth versus straw and mattress systems as long as they are kept clean and renewed frequently.


Open Access Peer Reviewed

Author Biography

Mike Steele, Inspire Cattle Solutions, Granborough Road, Winslow, Buckinghamshire, MK18 3BP UK

Technical Advisor, Global Marketing (Dairy).


Adams A.E., Lombard J.E., Fossler C.P., Roman-Muniz I.N., Kopral C.A. 2017. "Associations between housing and management practices and the prevalence of lameness, hock lesions, and thin cows on US dairy operations." Journal of Dairy Science 100 (3): 2119-2136.

Adhikari N., Bonaiuto H.E., Lichtenwalner A.B. 2013. "Short communication: Dairy bedding type affects survival of Prototheca in vitro." Journal of Dairy Science 96 (12): 7739-7742.

Astiz S., Sebastian F., Fargas O., Fernandez M., Calvet E. 2014. "Enhanced udder health and milk yield of dairy cattle on compost bedding systems during the dry period: a comparative study." Livestock Science 159: 161-164.

Bak A.S., Herskin M.S., Jensen M.B. 2016. "Effect of sand and rubber surface on the lying behavior of lame dairy cows in hospital pens." Journal of Dairy Science 99 (4): 2875-2883.

Black R.A., Krawczel P.D. 2016. "A Case Study of Behaviour and Performance of Confined or Pastured Cows During the Dry Period." Animals 6 (7): 41.

Black R.A., Taraba J.L., Day G.B., Damasceno F.A., Newman M.C., Akers K.A., Wood C.L., McQuerry K.J., Bewley J.M. 2014. "The relationship between compost bedded pack performance, management, and bacterial counts." Journal of Dairy Science 97 (5): 2669-2679.

Brim M., Timms L.L. 1989. "In vitro growth of environmental mastitis pathogens in various bedding materials." Journal of Dairy Science 72 (1): 14-15.

Burgstaller J., Raith J., Kuchling S., Mandl V., Hund A., Kofler J. 2016. "Claw health and prevalence of lameness in cows from compost bedded and cubicle freestall dairy barns in Austria." Veterinary Journal 216: 81-86.

Calamari L., Calegari F., Stefanini L. 2009. "Effect of different free stall surfaces on behavioural, productive and metabolic parameters in dairy cows." Applied Animal Behavioural Science 120: 9-17.

Carroll E.J., Jasper D.E. 1978. "Distribution of enterobacteriaceae in recycled manure bedding on California dairies." Journal of Dairy Science 61 (10): 1498-1508.

Chapinal N., Barrientos A.K., Keyserlingk M.A.G., von Galo E., Weary D.M. 2013. "Herd-level risk factors for lameness in freestall farms in the northeastern United States and California." Journal of Dairy Science 96 (1): 318-328.

Cole K.J., Hogan J.S. 2016. "Short communication: Environmental mastitis pathogen counts in freestalls bedded with composted and fresh recycled manure solids." Journal of Dairy Science 99 (2): 1501-1505.

Cook N.B., Bennett T.B., Nordlund K.V. 2004. "Effect of free stall surface on daily activity patterns in dairy cows with relevance to lameness prevalence." Journal of Dairy Science 87 (9): 2912-2922.

Cook N.B., Bennett T.B., Nordlund K.V. 2005. "Monitoring indices of cow comfort in free-stall-housed dairy herds." Journal of Dairy Science 88 (11): 3876-3885.

Cook N.B., Marin M.J., Mentink R.L., Bennett T.B., Schaefer M.J. 2008. "Comfort zone-design free stalls: do they influence the stall use behavior of lame cows?" Journal of Dairy Science 91 (12): 4673-4678.

De Palo P., Tateo A., Zezza F., Corrente M., Centoducati P. 2006. "Influence of Free-Stall Flooring on Comfort and Hygiene of Dairy Cow sDuring Warm Climatic Conditions." Journal of Dairy Science 89 (12): 4583-4595.

Doherr M.G., Roesch M., Schaeren W., Schallibaum M., Blum J.W. 2007. "Risk factors associated with subclinical mastitis in dairy cows on Swiss organic and conventional production system farms." Veterinarni Medicina 52 (11): 487-495.

Drissler M., Gaworski M., Tucker C.B., Weary D.M. 2005. "Freestall maintenance: effects on lying behavior of dairy cattle." Jounral of Dairy Science 88 (7): 2381-2387.

Dufour S., Dohoo I.R., Barkema H.W., Descôteaux L., Devries T.J., Reyher K.K., Roy J.P., Scholl D.T. 2012. "Epidemiology of coagulase-negative staphylococci intramammary infection in dairy cattle and the effect of bacteriological culture misclassification." Journal of Dairy Science 95 (6): 3110-3024.

Dufour S., Fréchette A., Barkema H.W., Mussell A., Scholl D.T. 2011. "Invited review: Effect of udder health management practices on herd somatic cell count." Journal of Dairy Science 94 (2): 563-579.

Eckelkamp E.A., Gravatte C.N., Coombs C.O., Bewley J.M. 2014. "Case study: characterization of lying behavior in dairy cows transitioning from a freestall barn with pasture access to a compost bedded pack barn without pasture access." Professional Animal Scientist 30 (1): 109-113.

Eckelkamp E.A., Taraba J.L., Akers K.A., Harmon A.J., Bewley J.A. 2016. "Sand bedded freestall and compost bedded pack effects on cow hygiene, locomotion, and mastitis indicators." Livestock Science 190: 48-57.

Espejo L.A., Endres M. I., Salfer J.A. n.d. 2006 "Prevalence of lameness in high-producing Holstein cows housed in freestall barns in Minnesota." Journal of Dairy Science 89 (8): 3052-3058.

Fulwider W.K., Grandin T., Garrick D.J., Engle T.E., Lamm W.D.,Dalsted N.L., Rollin B.E. 2007. "Influence of Free-Stall Base on Tarsal Joint Lesions and Hygiene in Dairy Cows." Journal of Dairy Science 90 (7): 3559-3566.

Gamroth M.J., Bowes M., Moore J.A. 1992. "Effect of bedding materials & treatment on coliform bacteria growth in dairy freestalls." Journal of Dairy Science 75 (1): 260.

Gao J., Barkema H.W., Zhang L., Liu G., Deng Z., Cai L., Shan R., Zhang S., Zou J., Kastelic J., Han B. 2017. "Incidence of clinical mastitis and distribution of pathogens on large Chinese dairy farms." Journal of Dairy Science 100 (6): 4797-4806.

Godden S., Bey R., Lorch K., Farnsworth R., Rapnicki P. 2008. "Ability of organic and inorganic bedding materials to promote growth of environmental bacteria." Journal of Dairy Science 91 (1): 151-159.

Gomez A., Cook N.B. 2010. "Time budgets of lactating dairy cattle in commercial freestall herds." Journal of Dairy Science 93 (12): 5772-5781.

Guarín J.F., Baumberger C., Ruegg P.L. 2017. "Anatomical characteristics of teats and premilking bacterial counts of teat skin swabs of primiparous cows exposed to different types of bedding." Journal of Dairy Science 100 (2): 1436-1444.

Hayasaka K., Kamo M., Kawamoto H. 2000. "Effects of stall surface and individual characteristics on the behaviour of lactating cows in free stall housing." Animal Science Journal 71 (8): 270-278.

Hogan J.S., Smith K.L., Hoblet K.H., Todhunter D.A., Schoenberger P.S., Hueston W.D., Pritchard D.E., Bowman G.L., Heider L.E., Brockett B.L. 1989. "Bacterial counts in bedding materials used on nine commercial dairies." Journal of Dairy Science 72 (1): 250-258.

Ito K., Chapinal N., Weary D.M., von Keyserlingk M.A. 2014. "Associations between herd-level factors and lying behavior of freestall-housed dairy cows." Journal of Dairy Science 97 (4): 2081-2089.

Jayarao B.M., Pillai S.R., Sawant A.A., Wolfgang D.R., Hegde N.V. 2004. "Guidelines for monitoring bulk tank milk somatic cell and bacterial counts." Journal of Dairy Science 87 (10): 3561-3573.

Jensen M.B., Herskin M.S., Thomsen P.T., Forkman B., Houe H. 2015. "Preferences of lame cows for type of surface and level of social contact in hospital pens." Journal of Dairy Science 98 (7): 4552-4559.

Jones B.W., Stone A.E., Wood C.L., McQuerry K.J., Clark J.D., Ray D.L., Bewley J.M. 2017. "Characterization of milk yield, lying and rumination behavior, gait, cleanliness, and lesions between 2 different freestall bases." Professional Animal Scientist 33 (1): 140-149.

Justice-Allen A., Trujillo J., Corbett R., Harding R., Goodell G., Wilson D. 2010. "Survival and replication of Mycoplasma species in recycled bedding sand and association with mastitis on dairy farms in Utah." Journal of Dairy Science 93 (1): 192-202.

Kara N.K., Galic A., Koyuncu M. 2011. "Effects of stall type and bedding materials on lameness and hygiene score and effect of lameness on some reproductive problems in dairy cattle." Journal of Applied Animal Research 39 (4): 334-338.

Kayitsinga J., Schewe R.L., Contreras G.A., Erskine R.J. 2017. "Antimicrobial treatment of clinical mastitis in the eastern United States: The influence of dairy farmers' mastitis management and treatment behavior and attitudes." Journal of Dairy Science 100 (2): 1388-1407.

Kristula M.A., Rogers W., Hogan J.S., Sabo M. 2005. "Comparison of bacteria populations in clean and recycled sand used for bedding in dairy facilities." Journal of Dairy Science 88 (12): 4317-4325.

Lim P.Y., Huxley J.N., Green M.J., Othman A.R., Potterton S.L., Brignell C.J., Kaler J. 2015. "Area of hock hair loss in dairy cows: risk factors and correlation with a categorical scale." Veterinary Journal 203 (2): 205-210.

Lobeck K.M., Endres M.I., Shane E.M., Godden S.M., Fetrow J. 2011. "Animal welfare in cross-ventilated, compost-bedded pack, and naturally ventilated dairy barns in the upper Midwest." Journal of Dairy Science 94 (11): 5469-5479.

Lombard J.E., Tucker C.B., von Keyserlingk M.A., Kopral C.A., Weary D.M. 2010. "Associations between cow hygiene, hock injuries, and free stall usage on US dairy farms." Journal of Dairy Science 93 (10): 4668-4676.

Manninen E., Passille A.M., de Rushen J., Norring M., Saloniemi H. 2002. "Preferences of dairy cows kept in unheated buildings for different kind of cubicle flooring." Applied Animal Behaviour Science 75 (4): 281-292.

Mitev J., Varlyakov I., Miteva T., Vasilev N., Gergovska J., Uzunova K., Dimova V. 2012. "Preferences of freestall housed dairy cows to different bedding materials." Veteriner Fakultesi Dergisi (Istanbul) 38 (2): 135-140.

Norring M., Manninen E., de Passillé A.M., Rushen J., Munksgaard L., Saloniemi H. 2008. "Effects of sand and straw bedding on the lying behavior, cleanliness, and hoof and hock injuries of dairy cows." Journal of Dairy Science 91 (2): 570-576.

Norring M., Manninen E., de Passillé A.M., Rushen J., Saloniemi H. 2010. "Preferences of dairy cows for three stall surface materials with small amounts of bedding." Journal of Dairy Science 93 (1): 2009-2164.

Rowbotham R.F., Ruegg P.L. 2016. "Associations of selected bedding types with incidence rates of subclinical and clinical mastitis in primiparous Holstein dairy cows." Journal of Dairy Science 99 (6): 4707-4716.

Rowbotham R.F., Ruegg P.L. 2016. "Bacterial counts on teat skin and in new sand, recycled sand, and recycled manure solids used as bedding in freestalls." Journal of Dairy Science 99 (8): 6954-6608.

Rudd L.E., Boe K.E., Osteras O. 2010. "Associations of soft flooring materials in free stalls with milk yield, clinical mastitis, teat lesions, and removal of dairy cows." Journal of Dairy Science 93 (4): 1578-1586.

Shane E.M., Endres M.I., Janni K.A. 2010. "Alternative bedding materials for compost bedded pack barns in Minnesota: a descriptive study." Applied Engineering in Agriculture 26 (3): 465-473.

Solano L., Barkema H.W., Pajor E.A., Mason S., LeBlanc S.J., Nash C.G., Haley D.B., Pellerin D., Rushen J., de Passillé A.M., Vasseur E., Orsel K. 2016. "Associations between lying behavior and lameness in Canadian Holstein-Friesian cows housed in freestall barns." Journal of Dairy Science 99 (3): 2086-2101.

Tucker C.B., Weary D.M., Fraser D. 2003. "Effects of three types of free-stall surfaces on preferences and stall usage by dairy cows." Journal of Dairy Science 86 (2): 521-529.

Upadhyay D., Singh M., Gaur G.K., Patel B.H.M., Verma M.R., Bharti P.K., Triveni D. 2017. "Does floor surface affect locomotion behaviour of crossbred cows under loose housing system?" Indian Journal of Animal Sciences 87 (2): 159-162.

van Gastelen S., Westerlaan B., Houwers D.J., van Eerdenburg F.J. 2011. "A study on cow comfort and risk for lameness and mastitis in relation to different types of bedding materials." Journal of Dairy Science 94 (10): 2878-2888.

Wagner-Storch A.M., Palmer R.W., Kammel D.W. 2003. "Factors affecting stall use for different freestall bases." Journal of Dairy Science 86 (6): 2253-2266.

Weary D.M., Taszkun I. 2000. "Hock lesions and free-stall design." Journal of Dairy Science 83 (4): 697-702.

Wenz J.R., Jensen S.M., Lombard J.E., Wagner B.A., Dinsmore R.P. 2007. "Herd management practices and their association with bulk tank somatic cell count on United States dairy operations." Journal of Dairy Science 90 (8): 3652-3659.

Westphal A., Williams M.L., Baysal-Gurel F., LeJeune J.T., McSpadden-Gardener B.B. 2011. "General suppression of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in sand-based dairy livestock bedding." Applied Environmental Microbiology 77 (6): 2113-2121.

Zdanowicz M., Shelford J,A,, Tucker C,B,, Weary D,M,, von Keyserlingk M,A. 2004. "Bacterial populations on teat ends of dairy cows housed in free stalls and bedded with either sand or sawdust." Journal of Dairy Science 87 (6): 1694-1701.

Additional Files





Vol. 3 No. 4 (2018): The fourth issue of 2018

Section: Knowledge Summaries

Categories :  Small Animal  /  Dogs  /  Cats  /  Rabbits  /  Production Animal  /  Cattle  /  Sheep  /  Pig  /  Equine  / 

Themes by