Compost-bedded pack (CBP) barns for dairy cows mainly use sawdust as bedding material. The objective of this study was to compare forest biomass to sawdust as bedding material for CBP. Variables evaluated included CBP moisture, temperature and C:N ratio, bedding microbial counts, and behavior and welfare measures of nonlactating cows. The experimental design was a crossover where two 11-wk periods were performed. Treatments were CBP with sawdust (CBP-S) as a control treatment and CBP with forest biomass (CBP-FB) as the experimental bedding material. Weather conditions, intake, CBP temperature, CBP moisture, and welfare assessment were measured during the entire periods. We took CBP samples for microbiological analysis and video recordings for animal behavior assessment in wk 11 of each period. The CBP management was the same in both treatments and periods, based on twice-daily tilling at a 30 cm depth, and the addition of 0.8 kg/m2 of new bedding material per day. Ambient temperature and environmental humidity were 9.1°C and 82.5% in period 1, and 13.2°C and 75.3% in period 2. Average DMI and water consumption were 17.4 ± 0.86 kg/d and 50.9 ± 7.84 L/d in period 1, and 16.3 ± 0.96 kg/d and 56.3 ± 8.02 L/d in period 2. Average of temperature, moisture, and C:N ratio of CBP were 32.2°C, 63.6%, and 44:1 in CBP-S, and 24.3°C, 66.4%, and 35:1 in CBP-FB, respectively. Temperature was higher in CBP-S than in CBP-FB, and in period 2 compared with period 1. Moisture was higher in CBP-FB than in CBP-S in period 1, but did not differ between treatments in period 2. The C:N ratio was higher in CBP-S than in CBP-FB in both periods. Total bacteria count and Bacillus spp. were similar between treatments. Klebsiella spp. counts in CBP-S were higher than in CBP-FB, and Streptococcus spp. and yeasts and fungi counts in CBP-S were lower than in CBP-FB. Total coliforms, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus counts in CBP-S were higher than in CBP-FB in period 1, but did not differ between treatments in period 2. No differences were detected in lying time (15.5 h/d), and time needed to lie down was higher in CBP-FB (5.3 s) than in CBP-S (4.6 s). We found that CBP performance and cow comfort in CBP-FB were lower than in CBP-S, but microbial counts of some species were better controlled in CBP-FB than in CBP-S.
- bacterial count
- bedding material
- compost-bedded pack performance
- cow comfort
- lying behavior