Fight Mastitis With Sand Bedding
Written October 24, 1997
Dairy farmers fight a never-ending battle against mastitis, a disease that poses a constant threat to their cows.
It turns out that they may be able to add bacteria-thwarting sand bedding to their anti-mastitis arsenals.
Ohio State's Joe Hogan, a dairy scientist at the Wooster campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, says the number of cases of mastitis in lactating cows is directly related to the bacteria found in their bedding.
Farmers can help prevent herd infection by choosing bedding, namely sand, that doesn't host disease-causing germs.
"Organic materials such as straw, corn fodder and sawdust often contain coliform bacteria," Hogan says. Sawdust and wood shavings also are popular bedding choices even though they are coliform hosts, and coliform mastitis is often attributed to bedding.
Hogan and fellow researcher Larry Smith studied the effects of sawdust bedding in a 48-stall barn at OARDC. Three rows of tie stalls were bedded with kiln-dried sawdust, but each received different treatments. Sawdust in the first row of stalls was replaced daily. The second row also was replaced daily, but hydrated lime was spread evenly over the sawdust. The third row of stalls was not treated.
The study proved wood products to be prime hosts for bacteria.
"Bacteria counts in organic material often are extremely low prior to use," Hogan says, "but that increases rapidly within hours after being placed in stalls as bedding."
Coliform and streptococci in the environment contaminate the bedding and the wood-based bedding provides nutrients and moisture that the bacteria need to thrive. When udders come in contact with the bedding, they, too, become contaminated -- which can cause mastitis.
The research also showed that if sawdust must be used for bedding, daily lime treatments control bacteria better than daily bedding replacement. And that can cost. "The annual cost of using 2.2 pounds of lime per stall in a 100-stall barn is $2,000," Hogan says. "And that's without labor costs."
So, the best bedding for lactating and dry cows is sand. "Sand ... won't support bacterial growth. It's low in moisture. And the cows enjoy laying on it -- it's comfortable," Hogan says.Straw and chopped paper tend to be most streptococci-friendly, while coliform bacteria love sawdust. "There isn't any organic bedding comparable to sand for bedding dairy cows," Hogan says.