Tarsa laying cow on bedding

Cow bedding

April 14, 2022 1 By kenyaagr

Cow bedding

What kind of cow bedding types should be used? Application areas of cow beddings and why are they used? How can we manage animal comfort and bedding comfort be ensured?

What is a cow bedding?

Cows spend at least 8 hours a day laying down at intervals, and they only ruminate while they lie down and produce milk during this time.

Comfortable dairy cows perform better, live longer and produce more lifetime calves when they are provided 24/7 access to clean, dry, well-ventilated housing which includes comfortable beds or stalls. Cow stalls that are improperly constructed, not maintained or incorrectly bedded create war with the cows. The “stall wars” ensue and the cows lose the battle with injury, lameness and loss of rest. When this happens, the dairy farm is at risk of losing the war and failure occurs.

Choosing bedding type

When choosing a bedding material, cow comfort is at the top of the list: If a cow is uncomfortable, she will not spend her day lying down and making milk. If stalls are uncomfortable, this can increase standing time for cows, which could, in turn, lead to lameness issues, reproductive issues, and decreased milk production, all of which are costly for a dairy.

Bedding needs to provide support for a resting cow but also needs to form a soft bed. The bedding material needs to provide a cooling effect in the summer.  One of the most important factors is that the bedding stays dry.  Dryness of the bedding will limit the growth of mastitis-causing pathogens. In addition to the cows’ needs, the farmer’s comfort is also essential. In order to achieve this, the bedding material must be both cost-efficient and easy to use from a labor standpoint.

Bedding Considerations to Lower Somatic Cell Count

Regardless of the type of dairy operation, some form of bedding is always necessary. The best bedding choice for your farm depends on various factors such as cow comfort, cost, availability, ease of handling, udder health, pathogen growth, and more.  Often, producers do not realize that their bedding material could contribute to a high somatic cell count.

Natural materials as animal bedding:

Bedding options fall into two main categories: organic and inorganic. There are many organic bedding options available to producers. 

Organic beddings

Compost bedding

Compost bedding or bedded pack barns are popular for housing dry cows and heifers. This type of bedding generally takes more management than producers often give to it but can be of a lower cost than other bedding systems. To begin the pack, approximately 30- 45 cm of wood shavings or sawdust is spread on the floor of a bedded pack or compost barn. The pack must be aerated twice daily to a depth of 20 to 25 cm. This helps incorporate oxygen for aerobic decomposition and provides a fresh, soft surface for cows to lie down. It is important to add appropriate amounts of fresh, dry sawdust, often depending on the weather conditions and density. 

Most bedded pack barns are thoroughly cleaned once or twice a year. This system requires excellent pack and ventilation management for cows to perform well. Many bedded-pack barns have fans to blow air downward onto the bedded pack to help dry the surface. Often, steam is observed rising from the pack during tilling. This is due to moisture escaping in large amounts. Bedded-pack barns typically have higher amounts of environmental pathogens. To reduce the risk of mastitis in cows, it is essential that producers maintain adequate bedding in the bedded pack, ensure frequent tilling, provide excellent ventilation, avoid overcrowding, and practice good parlor hygiene to be successful.

Israeli model bedding barns

Dried manure (Israeli model) / processed manure Compost bedding :

The value of processed compost is around 3-€ in 25 kg bags. The daily operating cost of using compost litter has been calculated as 0.85-€/cow.

As an organic material manure is used as cow bedding. The system, which is very sensitive to humidity and humidity, is suitable for dry and hot climates.

  • Compost height should be at least 45-60 cm and not exceed 120 cm.
  • +10-20 cm should be added weekly on the compost bed.
  • It should be mixed for 10 minutes 2 times a day. Otherwise, they will stink and get cold.
  • The first 30-40 cm should be mixed.

Recycled manure solid

Increased bedding costs and decreased availability have resulted in producers looking for other sources. This has led to some producers implementing the use of recycled manure solids. Recycled manure solids are obtained by mechanical separation of manure removed from the dairy housing system.  Recycled manure solids may be used fresh or composted for bedding. This is a low-cost form of bedding that has high availability on-site. This availability has allowed for the use of an alternative bedding source. A downside to recycled manure solids is that this bedding provides favorable conditions for the rapid growth of environmental pathogens compared to other organic materials such as sawdust or bedded packs (Harrison, 2008).  However, the use of manure solids in deep-bedded free stalls provides cows with a better resting surface, resulting in a lower incidence of lameness and hock lesions compared to herds that use mattresses (Endres)


  • Manure is readily available; the cost is low and absorbency is high.
  • Despite the high bacterial count of the bedding material, udder health and milk quality were not compromised, and somatic cell count (SCC) decreased over time in a well-managed bedded-pack barn. However, good parlor management is needed for this to occur.
  • Herd turnover rates have been shown to decrease over time, most likely due to reduced incidence of lameness and hock lesions. Bedded-pack barns are very comfortable to cows, and foot and leg health has been shown to be positive using this bedding system.
  • Bedded-pack barns allow cows freedom of movement compared to free stalls and tie stalls.
  • There is a reduction in manure storage costs and needed space and savings in labor and manure handling.
  • Compost bedding shows lower incidence of first and second mastitis cases, lower SCC and higher milk yield when used during the dry period.


  • High ambient humidity and air temperatures are not conducive to effective use of dried manure solids or composted dairy waste as bedding material.
  • Dried manure is an excellent medium for bacterial growth once moist; composting offers little benefit toward net reduction in teat-end contamination of pathogens. Each 1 percent increase in the percent of cows with milk discarded was associated with a 0.14 percent increase in bulk milk somatic cell scores.
  • The number of gram-negative bacteria in deep-bedded manure solids was greater compared to short-bedded manure solids.

Saw dust

One of the most popular choices is sawdust or shavings. This is due to ease of use and availability of the product. Cows have been observed lying more in stalls deeply bedded with sawdust (Clark, 2019). Sawdust and wood shavings are highly absorbent, but because they are organic, they allow for the rapid growth of pathogens when soiled or wet. This type of bedding often has a smaller particle size, which can be broken down easily by microorganisms for disposal.  Due to this trait in sawdust and shavings, they both can have high bacteria counts, making it more difficult to control mastitis.  Lime can be added to the rear of stalls to reduce the pH, reducing pathogens, but this is typically short-lived and should be done daily to be effective (Clark, 2019).

Straw bedding

Straw is often used to bed our young stock due to its absorbency and insulating properties.  Research shows that cows prefer straw with a smaller particle size 7-10 cm (3/4 inch), which increases comfort and absorbency and improves composting ability when disposed of (Tucker, 2009).  Straw is a low-cost bedding choice if produced on the farm.  Cows housed in straw bedding tend to be dirtier than other bedding materials, and the incidence of mastitis increases.

Although it is the most used organic litter material, it causes problems in manure cleaning. Per animal: 260 kg/ year litter needs materials as well as intensive labor. Some farms also use coarse and fine sawdust instead of straw

If the farm is located close to a paper mill, paper may be available inexpensively as another bedding option. Chopped recycled newsprint has also been used for dairy bedding. Both can be effectively mixed with other bedding materials. This bedding type is ineffective due to its poor absorbency properties. Typically, animals bedded with paper also tend to be dirtier compared to other bedding materials.

Sand bedding Usage

One popular inorganic bedding material on the market is sand. Sand is economical, improves the cleanliness of cows, and has advantages for leg and hoof health. When considering udder health, sand is preferred because it does not promote pathogen growth; however,

When mixed with manure, pathogen growth can still occur. Sand has rounded edges and is cooler, providing more comfort for cows, especially during heat stress. Particle size is important because smaller particle size sand will hold water well, and larger particle-sized sand is not as comfortable for cows to lie on. The ideal particle size for sand bedding is between 0.1 and 2.0 mm. A 6 to 8-inch depth in a free stall is recommended for cow comfort, softness, and molding. 

An advantage of sand compared to other bedding is that it can be recycled and reused. Sand also provides excellent traction for cows to reduce slipping only on wet concrete floors, but it is also abrasive to concrete and other mechanical equipment. A downside to sand is handling. Many manure storage systems are not designed to handle sand and should not be spread onto fields. Additionally, sand-bedded stalls can become compacted without proper grooming.

Sand bedding is considered the “gold standard” for US manufacturers. Each litter material has advantages and disadvantages.

It is the most commonly used litter material in dairy cattle enterprises.  Bacteria growth is minimal when using Sand Base  and it looks cleaner than other substrate materials.  Although it is considered as the material that causes the least problem in terms of negative disturbances in body parts. 

Natural materials such as grass, soil, sand, feces bring the living conditions closest to the natural conditions in the barn to is no longer economical because of maintenance costs of the use natural materials, so rubber floors and underlays have been used.

The cost of operating 24 tons of sand per animal per year was found to be 20 tons/€. The annual cost of operating 380 tons of water per animal for washing the sand and cleaning with water was found to be 50/tons. Sand substrates are mostly preferred in the USA because of their softness and inorganic structure that does not produce microbes. 

Farms that use sand as litter do not use scrapers. Since sand has an abrasive effect, it spoils the scrapers and has a very high abrasive effect on all machinery, equipment and concrete. For this reason, flushing (siphon) system is used for cleaning.

Deep bedding

Straw, Grass, Soil, Sand and Dry feces, which are natural environment materials known as animal litter, are considered and used as compost bedding. These double-hoofed animals, which have lived in nature for thousands of years, have to live in industrial-type farms with concrete floors outside of their natural environment and pasture. This situation affects the living conditions of animals severely and negatively.

Deep levels of bedding 15 cm sand – 5 cm sawdust (6-inch sand, 2-inch sawdust), proper stall length 2,4 Meters (8 feet for Holsteins) with neck rail located properly and correct placement of brisket board will increase lying time. Canadian research with free stall herds and robotic milked herds concluded that deep bedding of stalls produced 2,5 kgs -5.7 pounds per cow milk per cow. Cows will lay up to 15 minutes per day longer for every additional 2 pounds of dry sawdust bedding placed on mattresses. The study concluded that at least 16 cm of deep sand was required for the best comfort.

A dairy herd stall comfort consultation I conducted at a farm that had added deep-bedded sand stalls next to the former concrete-based sawdust-covered stalls was proof that cows will choose the most comfortable stalls. Two weeks after the new barn was added, 100% of the deep-bedded sand stalls were filled with calm ruminating cows. The old barn with lightly covered sawdust concrete stalls were only occupied 10% with many cows perched in the stalls and not lying. Cows prefer and will select soft, non-abrasive stall bases. Cows will have one or more hours of lying time in dry stalls (<20% DM) compared to higher moisture (>35% moisture).

Elevated stalls and Mattresses

Another common bedding used for milking herds is mattresses. Mattresses can be found in tie stalls or free stall housing facilities.  Mattresses are made with a waterproof exterior filled with various products, most commonly rubber.  Often, producers use mattresses alone, but studies have shown that additional bedding is needed to make the mattress more comfortable for cows to lie on (Clark, 2019).  Without the additional bedding, producers will often see increased hock injuries and lameness in their cows. Mattresses tend to be cleaner because of increased stall maintenance in facilities they are utilized in, resulting in a lower SCC than other organic bedding types.

Pros and Cons bedding types

Every bedding type has pros and cons, but these pros and cons can differ from farm to farm, depending on the barn layout. When considering the best bedding choice for a dairy operation, evaluate the pros and cons and decide which satisfies cow comfort and farm management needs. Without proper management of the chosen bedding material, a low somatic cell count will never be achieved. Attention to cow prep at milking time is crucial no matter what bedding type your farm uses. Producers can successfully maintain a low SCC when using any bedding type when paired with excellent cow preparation at milking time, sanitation of milking equipment, cow hygiene, adequate dry cow housing, and bedding/stall management.

Cow comfort

The comfort of a cow stall, whether a tie stall or free stall, is a combination of the stall size (length x width x neck rail x brisket board), stall bed surface (concrete, sand or sawdust), bedding depth, surface cleanliness and stall bedding moisture. The comfort of the stall will impact cow lying time. Healthy, productive cows lay down 10+ hours per day in eight to 10 bouts of 60 to 90 minutes.

Healthy cows that lay down 12 to 14 hours per day will produce 3 to 6 pounds more milk of higher fat content than cows that lay down for 6 to 9 hours. Cows that lay down will ruminant longer with higher blood flow to the udder which supports higher milk production with higher butterfat.

Benefits of cow bedding: As the laying time of the cow increases, their rumination and milk production capacities increase. For this reason, breeders make an effort to provide a comfortable and soft sleeping area, as cows will like to lie down when animals lie more.

Research has shown that the laying time of the cow can be up to 12 hours by increasing the comfort of laying for 8 hours a day with intervals. Provides an average of 2-3% increase in cow milk yield when an extra 4 hours of extra lying time is provided. So, what will meet the need of the cow? How should a cow bedding be?

Cubicle dividers

Cubicle housing systems for cattle has to comply comfort of dairy cows. Adjustment of stall dividers provides comfortable, clean and dry resting bed area. They allow feces and urine to fall into the dung path.

PREREQUISITES CUBICLES for cow cubicle stall Cubicle adjustments for system with flexible and without neck rails

Partition dividers should provide optimum bed usage and cleaning together. Free-stall cubicle dividers provide excellent cow comfort and remains cleaner, as the cows lie straight in the cubicles. Housing is important for the welfare of cows in cubicle houses.

Cow bedding mats and mattresses

There are many different types of cow beddings, mats and mattresses for zero graze barns and Semi-Free stalls tie-stalls and Paddocks. Also, barns are in different sizes related breeding models according to breeds and ages of the animals. In addition, for animal needs and welfare, mattresses with different stretching, deformation, elasticity rates, thickness and comfort properties; There are models that can be mounted as Puzzle, Rolled long line, Flat. 

There are different types of mattresses available on the market

  • Chopped rubber mattresses: Usually 5-10 cm thick. These provide a better cushion for the cows but with time they also become harder and uncomfortable for the cows.
  • Solid carpet of rubber: Usually 2-4 cm thick. These are the hardest ones. This type of mattress is very uncomfortable for the cows and will create hoof and joint problems.
  • Latex or polyethylene foam mattresses: Usually 5-10 cm thick. Good cushion and usually do not become harder with time.
  • Water mattresses: This type of mattress is very comfortable for cows but they have to be really good or a water leak can occur.

Purpose of cow mats

Cow mats should be more comfortable and softer than other animal bedding materials. The purpose of the cow mat is to allow the animal to lie down for a longer period of time by enjoying it. However, the floor that the animal lies on must be kept dry and clean so that mats do not cause mastitis and skin diseases. 

Cow mat mattresses

In addition, they should not damage cow joints due to hitting their elbows while lying down.

Bedding comfort: dry, clean, soft and the right material.

The world’s best quality functional, soft and comfortable cow bed KRAIBURG with a 10-year guarantee; It directly affects milk yield and animal comfort by increasing the lying time of dairy animals.  

Sometimes, extra lying time can cause various problems in the animal, depending on the comfort and quality of the bedding area.

Animals avoid lying on wet, damp and hard floors, and on bedding that is not soft enough and comfortable and not the right size. Non-soft bearings (joints) cause carpal problems.
Standing for a long time increases lameness and joint disorders. Standing on wet, damp and hard ground: It causes nail and foot diseases to develop. In addition to low productivity, acidosis causes foot and joint problems. As a result, animal losses, treatment costs and milk loss occur.

Why are rubber mats used?

Since, animal health and productivity are very important: If natural environment materials (grass, soil, sand, compost manure) cannot be used economically as litter and bedding in industrial farming and especially in cow barns.  Rubber is preferred as an economical substitute material due to the difficulty and financial burden in the supply, distribution and disposal of natural materials. In parallel with the development of technology after 1970, the materials generally called animal bedding were used as mattresses, which were first in the form of flat sheets.

What is a cow mat

Cow mats thickness for lying areas at least 30 mm and average thicknesses of 30-65 mm, can meet the needs of cows are called cow laying mats. The needs of the animal vary according to race, age and climate. Mattresses and mats made of rubber products of the most useful material in all kinds of climatic differences have been accepted.

Cow mats comfort

However, those who say that softness alone is not enough for comfort. Functional rubber cow mats for bedding, meet the needs of animals and breeders, offering physical, geometric, strength, comfort and safety elements in integrity, have begun to be used.

LINK for products tested and approved by the German agricultural association DLG

Functional animal beds and barn floors

In industrial intensive farms

KRAIBURG, the World Leader in animal mats and barn floors with a variety of products suitable for animal breeds and ages. KRAIBURG Animal mats: provide an increase in milk yield of approximately + 2-3% due to increased sleeping comfort and time, less labor and litter (handle) requirements occur.

Annual straw need per cow

KRAIBURG bunk floor: 40 kg / Stalk floor stall: 260 kg.

Annual labor fee per cow

KRAIBURG lying stall: 95 minutes
Stalked station: 265 minutes

what is a cow bed

Factors determining cow bedding prices

  1. % of flexibility – DIN Comfort rating
  2. Thickness mm
  3. Weights Kg/m2
  4. Dimensions m2 are good for your animals.

Cow comfort standards

How can we determine cow mats are comfortable? Convenience means; It is not softness, but softness should also be considered as a part of comfort. See DIN 3763 – “Comfort classes”, which is accepted as a standard for comfort for cows.

Certificates of KRAIBURG cow mat and matresses

“Prefer KRAIBURG products for animal comfort and hygienic areas suitable for organic livestock”

Kraiburg produces cattle bedding and litter; It has DIN 3763 – “Comfort classes”.

The product is of German origin and CE certified, and is suitable for live adult animal weight in European standards.

KRAIBURG functional animal beds, recommended for high-yielding dairy cattle. Manufactured in different models, types and sizes according to their stretch rates, thickness, characteristics and animal breeds, and have been tested and approved by the German Agricultural Union DLG.

The world’s best quality 10-year guaranteed KRAIBURG cow bedding mats. Directly affects milk yield and animal comfort, while increasing the laying time of animals on soft, comfortable and functional bedding.  Animal bedding Comparison table  cow bedding characteristics comparison table:  All information is listed by DLG German Agricultural Institute.

It is ISO 9001 system certified and produces the only rubber mats and underlays that can be used in organic farming according to European Union (EU) norms EC 834 / 2007. These products have received Focus test and SIGNUM test certificates and PAK non-hazardous certificate (does not contain harmful substances to human and animal health) by DLG (German agricultural association) and their reliability has been proven. What is a cow bed?

Animal mats with 10 years warranty only in Kraiburg

The KRAIBURG branded 10-year guarantee has an average life of 40 years.

  • Whether you use it for 10 years warranty or after 10 years we get it back to 50% of your purchase price. *
  • Whether you renew your product with a new model at the end of 10 years,
  • Whether you use it for an average of 40 years of service life without any problems.

*This commitment is valid only for products with the KRAIBURG Logo together with the buyback agreement.

Please contact us for the mats and mattresses prices, as well as cow mattresses and foamed cow mattresses.