Interest in using recycled manure solids (RMS) as a bedding material for dairy cows has grown in the US Midwest. Cost of common bedding materials has increased in recent years and availability has decreased. Information regarding the composition of RMS and its use as a bedding material for dairy cows in the Midwest is very limited. The objectives of this study were to characterize RMS as a bedding material, observe bedding management practices, document methods of obtaining RMS, and describe housing facilities. We visited 38 Midwest dairy operations bedding freestalls with RMS to collect data. Methods of obtaining RMS for bedding included separation of anaerobic digested manure, separation of raw manure, and separation of raw manure followed by mechanical drum-composting for 18 to 24. h. Average bedding moisture of unused RMS was 72.4% with a pH of 9.16. Unused samples contained (on a dry basis) 1.4% N, 44.9% C, 32.7. C:N ratio, 0.44% P, 0.70% K, 76.5% neutral detergent fiber, 9.4% ash, 4.4% nonfiber carbohydrates, and 1.1% fat. Moisture was lowest for drum-composted solids before and after use as freestall bedding. After use in the stalls, digested solids had lower neutral detergent fiber content (70.5%) than drum-composted (75.0%) and separated raw (73.1%) solids. Total N content was greater in digested solids (2.0%) than in separated raw (1.7%) solids. Total bacterial populations in unused bedding were greatest in separated raw manure solids but were similar between digested and drum-composted manure solids. Drum-composted manure solids had no coliform bacteria before use as freestall bedding. After use as bedding, digested manure solids had lower total bacteria counts compared with drum-composted and separated raw manure solids, which had similar counts. Used bedding samples of digested solids contained fewer environmental streptococci than drum-composted and separated raw solids and had reduced Bacillus counts compared with separated raw solids. Coliform counts were similar for all 3 bedding sources. Addition of a mechanical blower post-separation and use of a shelter for storage were associated with reduced fresh-bedding moisture but not associated with bacterial counts. This was the first survey of herds using RMS for bedding in the Midwest. We learned that RMS was being used successfully as a source of bedding for dairy cows. For most farms in the study, somatic cell count was comparable to the average in the region and not excessively high.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the dairy producers who participated in this study and the extension educators and industry representatives who helped us identify cooperating farms. This project was funded by the University of Minnesota Rapid Agricultural Response Fund .
- Bacterial count
- Bedding characteristic
- Recycled manure solids