The microbiome of common bedding materials before and after use on commercial dairy farms

Tui Ray, Tara Nath Gaire, Christopher J. Dean, Sam Rowe, Sandra M. Godden, Noelle R. Noyes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Bovine mastitis is one of the most economically important diseases affecting dairy cows. The choice of bedding material has been identified as an important risk factor contributing to the development of mastitis. However, few reports examine both the culturable and nonculturable microbial composition of commonly used bedding materials, i.e., the microbiome. Given the prevalence of nonculturable microbes in most environments, this information could be an important step to understanding whether and how the bedding microbiome acts as a risk factor for mastitis. Therefore, our objective was to characterize the microbiome composition and diversity of bedding material microbiomes, before and after use. Methods: We collected 88 bedding samples from 44 dairy farms in the U.S. Unused (from storage pile) and used (out of stalls) bedding materials were collected from four bedding types: new sand (NSA), recycled manure solids (RMS), organic non-manure (ON) and recycled sand (RSA). Samples were analyzed using 16S rRNA sequencing of the V3–V4 region. Results: The overall composition as well as the counts of several microbial taxa differed between bedding types, with Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes dominating across all types. Used bedding contained a significantly different microbial composition than unused bedding, but the magnitude of this difference varied by bedding type, with RMS bedding exhibiting the smallest difference. In addition, positive correlations were observed between 16S rRNA sequence counts of potential mastitis pathogens (bacterial genera) and corresponding bedding bacterial culture data. Conclusion: Our results strengthen the role of bedding as a potential source of mastitis pathogens. The consistent shift in the microbiome of all bedding types that occurred during use by dairy cows deserves further investigation to understand whether this shift promotes pathogen colonization and/or persistence, or whether it can differentially impact udder health outcomes. Future studies of bedding and udder health may be strengthened by including a microbiome component to the study design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalAnimal Microbiome
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

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© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Bedding
  • Differential abundance
  • Mastitis pathogens
  • Microbiome


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