Considerations in choosing bedding

Labor‐ How time consuming is the overall management (obtaining the material, dispersing it into areas of use, cleaning, and disposal). Availability‐ How feasible is it to obtain material? Are there other uses for the bedding material and will that play a factor into the economics of that specific material? Evaluate source of material to ensure cleanliness


Expense‐ Buy bedding at the most economical time, in a particular season, at harvest time or, in the case of sawdust, during the mills busiest period. Purchasing a year's supply of bedding may be economical given a proper storage facility is available.

Manure management system‐ Does the material chosen fit into your current manure system? If not, can alteration be made to either the system or material chosen? Wood products can create a problem for waste management especially in the case of composting because of their high carbon to nitrogen (C: N) ration.

Type of Use‐ Consider the situation under which the bedding will be utilized. Is the bedding going to be used for normal day‐to‐day bedding, bedding for milking or pregnant animals, or for mothers with new born animals?

Five Bedding Characteristics

Comfort‐ Materials should contribute to the overall comfort of the animal by providing a dry, cushioned place which encourages resting. A well rested animal will increase its overall productivity.

Moisture Content‐ Organic matter has better moisture absorption capacity than inorganic material. Moisture directly increases the level of microbial activity in the bedding, leading to harmful levels of environmental pathogens. Moist materials also adhere to animals making the cleaning of the animal more difficult, especially in the case of animals with coarse hair. Turning bedding improves ventilation and can reduce moisture.

Cleanliness‐ Materials should always remain free of any chemicals, sharp objects, molds, dust, and excess moisture. Clean soiled bedding areas at first sign of trouble.

Inert‐ Ideally, bedding should not sustain bacterial growth, but organic matter such as straw, wood shavings, and paper byproducts do. Materials should not be palatable to animals. Increased changing of bedding is needed if organic materials are incorporated.

Particle Size‐ Is a much‐overlooked aspect of bedding, but probably the most effective if used properly. Organic matter of smaller particle size will encourage bacterial growth, thus shortening the effectiveness of the bedding materials. Comfort becomes a factor when using inorganic substances such as sand. Large sand particles can cause discomfort and sometimes create wounds, though finer sand can be used successfully. Very fine particles such as sawdust will stick to the skin and teat ends exposing them to higher concentrations of bacteria.