Cow Comfort: Best Dairy Bedding Options

Cow comfort is directly proportional to cow health and profitability. It is thus paramount that you ensure that your cows are not only comfortable but also feel comfortable. Studies have shown that comfortable cows produce more milk and are more profitable.

Regardless of the conditions surrounding your dairy farm, cow comfort is not negotiable. You need to do all it takes to ensure that the cow is comfortable. Flooring and bedding are key areas that you need to pay close attention to. You may also need to upgrade the resting and feeding areas to ensure. In this post, we shall focus more on cow beddings but we will be writing more in our upcoming posts.

Beddings have a great impact on a cow’s production. There are different types of beddings that can be used. They range from water beds to piles of used papers. Some of the popular beddings include;

Sand Bedding

Isn’t it sweet lying on sand? Well, cows too love lying on sand. Sand bedding feels like a beach. It is not only soft on the body but is also easy on the joints. It’s however worth noting that not all sand is the same. Natural sand, obtained from mines and sand pits, is the preferred quality. Manufactured sand, which is made from crushing of aggregates, may also be used.

Sand is normally clean and contains low organic matter. Natural sand tends to have finer particles than manufactured sand. When evaluating the sand to use for cow bedding, you need to check out all these quantifiable attributes.

What’s So Good About Using Sand As Bedding?

A cow loves uniform, comfortable, non-abrasive and cool bedding. Sand is known to offer most of these aspects. Sand has low pathogen loading. It may therefore be a perfect option for farms battling mastitis.

Sand naturally drains with ease. It will hardly retain moisture or leaked milk. This makes it very friendly. It’s also labor efficient. It will rarely need replacement especially when placed in a place where cows can’t carry it out with their feet.

Sand is readily available. In most countries, it can be fetched from river beds. You can get it for free. Well, even if you have to buy it you won’t spend a fortune. Once you have placed a 6-8” bed, your cows will be comfortable for the rest of the year.

Desired Sand Bedding Characteristics

For the perfect bedding sand, ensure that your sand has;

  • No stones or debris
  • Dry material
  • Low organic matter
  • Appropriate texture

Benefits Of Using Sand Beddings

· Longer Cow Resting Hours

Sand is very comfortable. This makes the cows love it and spend many hours sleeping. Cows have longer bouts. Just as you would sit longer in a comfortable chair than a hard one, cows too experience this “laZboy” effect.

Sand normalizes a cow’s resting behavior. Lame cows tend to lie down more hours and will avoid standing up numerous times. Studies conducted in Finland showed that in 21 weeks, lame cows lying down on sand seemed to recover while those of straw didn’t show signs of recovery.

· Cows Have An Easy Time Getting Up And Down On Sand

Lying down and standing up is a crucial step. Some cows will stand the whole day just because they aren’t ready to go through the process of lying down. The hind legs interact with the ground as the cow rises. The cow thus needs cushion, support and traction.

Young and non-lame cows will easily tolerated hard surfaces but lame and older cows have a difficult time. Sand makes it easy for all types of cows to wake up and lie down.

· Fewer Cattle Injuries

Cows suffer hock and knee injuries while lying down, sleeping and standing up. The use of sand reduces these injuries. This increases a cow’s productivity and also elongates its lifespan.

· Low Incidences Of Clinical Mastitis

Environmental mastitis caused by E.coli and streptococci can hinder a cow’s production. It also affects cow health adversely. The use of sand beddings goes a long way in controlling mastitis in dairy cows.

The fact that sand contains little organic matter creates few opportunities of bacteria growth. Farmers have reported lower somatic cells count after switching to sand bedding.

Challenges Associated With Sand Bedding

  • Gets into milk tanks, filters and plug drains
  • Abrasive to milking equipment
  • Settles in cow rumen, teats and udder
  • Invades waterers and feeding area

When using sand bedding, it’s important that you ensure that you have the right size and consistency. The grains should preferably be 1mm-3mm in size. Ensure that the sand has no stones or debris. Always keep it dry and ensure that it has no organic matter.

Dairy Cow Water Beddings

Dairy cow beds were first used in the 1990s. These were regular beds made of straws and sand. The two chambered mattress became very popular in 2000s. The popularity was pegged on the comfort and the support cows got from the second mattress when getting up.

In addition to great comfort, water bedding increase cows’ sleeping time. This is quite important in dairy cow profit maximization. Scientific studies have shown that milk production has a direct relationship with cows’ resting time. The more time a cow sleep, the more the milk produced.

Cows may seem to have drifted away in sleep but that’s not all they do in sleep. This is usually the perfect time to chew cud and store energy. It is at this stage that the cow increases blood flow to the udder. Normally, the blood flow can be increased by up to 30%.

Every cow loves lying down for some rest. However, it’s not every cow that will lie down. The prospect of lowering their 1500 pound bodies discourages many from taking the coveted sleep. They’d rather sleep upstanding than go through the ordeal.

The advent of water bedding made lying down easy and comfortable for dairy cows. The mattresses provided more appeal to the cows motivating them to sleep some more. Well, this impact was also evident in the milk production. After all, happy cows are more productive.

Cow Water Bed Benefits

  • Water beds are warm. This warmth speeds up relaxation. It also soothes muscles and relieves tension.
  • Waterbeds increase the ease of a cow falling asleep.
  • Water bedding are quite comfortable. They allow in calf cows to sleep comfortably for long hours.
  • These beds permit long cow sleeping hours with minimal movement and re-awakenings.
  • Form-fitting. Waterbeds conform to the cow’s shape. This provides excellent comfort thus reduced tossing and turning. It also eases pressure on knees and joints.

Waterbed Shortcomings

  • Waterbeds require great care and maintenance. Regular conditioning of the vinyl cover and replacement of bladders can be a little daunting.
  • Water beddings are quite heavy. Though there is even distribution, the will require lots of input to move them around.

Cow Sleeping Mats And Bedding Mattresses

Cows ought to sleep for 14-18 hours. Researches have shown that cow sleep for up to 15 hours in outdoor pastures. Research has also shown that cows sleep for 8 to 10 hours. The only explanation behind the few sleeping hours is cow comfort. The natural environment is comfortable and welcoming but the same can’t be said about cow barns that as unforgiving.

The installation of cow mats and mattresses makes barns comfortable. This improves the quality of cow sleep and also increases their resting time. Different types of cow mattresses are currently in use. They range from rubber to foam mattresses. Most of them are used for cow bedding while others are used for barn flooring.

Cow Mattress Bedding

Concrete has been used across the country for cows sleeping areas. Many people opt for concrete as it is easy to install, maintain and repair. It’s however very uncomfortable for cows and will cause major injuries. One of the best ways to upgrade concrete cow houses is having cow sleeping mats and cow bedding mattresses.

Cow mattresses add the much needed cushion and comfort. They reduce the chances of a cow sustaining injuries while turning or standing. The fact that they can be installed on different types of surfaces makes them very dynamic.

Cow mat beddings can either be rubber filled, foam filled or flat solid rubber. All these will have different characteristics. Only go for the option that gives you maximum benefits. Solid bedding mats and foam filled mats are a little harder than rubber filled mats. They are thus more rigid. However they last longer than the rubber mats and mattresses.

Flooring Mats And Mattresses

A cow needs to be comfortable all the time not just when she is sleeping. You therefore need to ensure that every section of the barn and parlor is comfortable. The floor can be a little unforgiving especially if it’s made of concrete.

One of the ingenious ways of making the floor a little comfortable is installing floor mats. These can be rubber or foam mats. These mats are softer on the cows underfoot. They reduce claw and feet injuries. You will also observe fewer incidences of lameness.

The turning effect in cows is mostly felt by the hooves. Concrete has a huge wear and tear effect on claws especially when the cow turns. You therefore need to pay close attention to areas where the cows turn. Ensure that the alleys, holding areas and corners are well padded with mattresses.

Research has shown that they use of cow mats and mattresses in alleys have a positive impact on cows’ locomotion scores. Cows tend to make more and longer strides on comfortable mattress surfaces. The cows feel comfortable while walking on mats and the assurance of foot placement gives them the confidence to make bold steps.

Benefits Of Cow Mat Beddings

  • Non-slip cow mattresses make it easy for cows to sleep and wake up. Mats offer the much needed grip enabling the cow to rise up with ease.
  • Mats are quite easy to clean. Hygiene is paramount in dairy farming and the ease of cleaning rubber and foam mattresses makes your work easier.
  • Foam and rubber bedding mattresses are easy on cow joints and tissues. They reduce the number of injuries thus lowering lameness in dairy cows.
  • Mats are not only clean but also improve the overall cow hygiene. Cows are cleaner and good-looking. This is a huge advantage especially to a farm battling environmental mastitis. You will have an easy time controlling the bacteria.

Compost Bedding

Compost is usually used in open-style cow barns. Normally, wood shavings or sawdust are used. To ensure that the cows are comfortable, 12-18 inches of compost should be used. The sawdust or shavings should be added per week.

With open style bans, the composite can rise up to 4 feet. It can then be replaced once or twice a year. It however needs proper ventilation to ensure that the beddings are well aerated. Feed and water also need to be maintained in separate alleys.

Benefits Of Composite Beddings

  • Studies have shown that compost bedding improves claw health. A Vienna based group of researchers led by Johann Burgstaller compared the frequency of lameness and claw disorder in free-stall cubicle barns and compost bedded barns.
  • The team investigated the severity and frequency of claw lesions in the different barns. Compost bedded barns were seen to exhibit half the number of claw disorders. This proves that compost bedding improves claw health.
  • Compost bedding improves social interaction. Barns that are well aerated and maintained are animal friendly. Animals will be more social in such barns and will tend to play more and spend time grooming each other.

Paper Bedding

Used papers shouldn’t go to waste. One of the best ways of recycling papers is using them as dairy cow beddings. Different types of paper beddings can be made from recycled papers. These include paper pulp and shredded waste paper.

Normally, farmers use newspapers for paper beddings. The newspapers are chopped to offer the much needed cushion. Farmers can chop the newspapers at home or get the ready-made paper beddings.

Benefits Of Using Paper Bedding

  • The beddings are affordable
  • They’re easily available
  • Dust-free, sterile and weed free
  • Decompose rapidly
  • They are highly absorbent
  • Paper beddings are durable

Paper based beddings are specially designed to offer dairy cows. Specially made beddings have excellent characteristic that are cow friendly. The latent alkalinity is an added advantage as it serves as a disinfectant. This contributes in the control of pathogen in cow barns.

Paper pulp needs to be handled with care. As it hardens, it may form uneven surfaces. These surfaces are quite uncomfortable and may make the cows avoid lying down. Shredded paper may also attract moisture. This moisture is a microorganism’s breeding ground. If not well managed, this may be a source of pathogen especially mastitis bacteria.


Cow beddings have a huge impact on a cow’s feeding, sleeping and resting habits. Cows spend most of their time seeping. They thus need to be comfortable. Well, the more the rest the more the benefits and profitability. You therefore need to hack ways of ensuring that the cow is always comfortable.

Researchers are working round the clock to improve cows comfort. The above bedding options are just but a few comfortable sleeping options. These should help you increase your cows ‘productivity and dairy profitability. You will have made significant strides towards achieving the desired cow comfort. You will definitely see major changes in the overall cow health, response and productivity.