The major objective of this study was to contrast the ability of 4 commonly utilized bedding materials to promote growth of environmental bacteria under controlled conditions. A second objective was to describe the relationship between bacterial growth and specific biochemical or nutritional properties of these bedding materials. Unused samples of clean sand (CS; n = 20), recycled sand (RS; n = 21), digested manure solids (DS; n = 15), and shavings (SH; n = 15) were collected from bedding storage areas on 49 commercial Minnesota and Wisconsin dairy farms. Sterilized bedding samples were inoculated with Klebsiella pneumoniae and Enterococcus faecium then incubated, in triplicate, for 72 h at 37°C. Subsamples were collected after 0, 24, 48, and 72 h of incubation for culture and enumeration of bacteria. Subsamples of bedding were also tested for pH, total C content (%), and total N content (%). If bacterial growth occurred, peak levels were typically achieved within 24 h. Digested manure solids promoted the greatest amounts of growth of K. pneumoniae, followed by RS and then SH, whereas CS promoted the least. There would seem to be a tradeoff in selecting SH as a bedding material, because it supported moderate growth of K. pneumoniae but caused a rapid decline in the numbers of E. faecium. However, RS, CS, and DS each only supported relatively small amounts of growth of E. faecium, so the benefit of SH relative to other bedding materials is limited. High bedding pH may partially explain why some bedding materials supported growth of E. faecium (e.g., DS and RS). Both high bedding pH (e.g., as for DS or RS) and high total C (%) content (e.g., as for DS and SH) may partially explain why some bedding materials supported growth of K. pneumoniae.
- Environmental mastitis