Bedding on Geotextile Mattresses: How Much is Needed to Improve Cow Comfort?

By Tucker, C. B. and Weary, D. M., J Dairy Sci, 2004
The objective of our study was to evaluate how the amount of sawdust bedding on mattresses affects dairy cattle behavior and preferences. Eleven nonlactating, multiparous cows were housed individually in pens with access to 3 free stalls. Each stall was fitted with a geotextile mattress covered with either 0, 1, or 7.5 kg of kiln-dried sawdust. The experiment began with 7 d of acclimatization to all 3 stalls. Cows were then allowed access to only 1 of the 3 stalls at a time, each for 3 d (restriction phase). At the end of this restriction phase, cows were allowed free access to all 3 stalls for 3 d (free-choice phase). Time spent lying and the number of lying bouts increased significantly with the amount of bedding, from 12.3 {+/-} 0.53 h lying and 8.5 {+/-} 0.62 bouts per 24 h on bare mattresses to 13.8 {+/-} 0.53 h lying and 10.0 {+/-} 0.62 bouts per 24 h on mattresses with 7.5 kg of sawdust. In addition, the animals spent less time standing with only the front hooves in the stalls when more sawdust was present. When allowed free access to all 3 options, all 11 animals spent a majority of their time lying and standing in the 7.5-kg option. In conclusion, cows preferred mattresses bedded with 7.5 kg of sawdust, on which they spent more time lying down and less time standing with only the front hooves in stalls. These results indicate that more sawdust bedding improves cow comfort in stalls with geotextile mattresses.
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