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Knowledge Nuggets

  • Cattle rest either standing or lying down. Given the choice, lying down on a soft surface is preferred to standing and standing is preferred to lying on a rough cold surface. Cattle prefer to stay comfortable rather than staying clean.
  • Thermal qualities to the bedding are not an issue until outside temperatures cause heat loss to the ground from the resting animal. As outside temperatures drop and heat loss increases, the propensity to lie down decreases. Cattle prefer to stay warm before lying down.
  • Frequent bedding to keep hair clean is essential to maintain the insulating characteristics of the hair. When manure is mixed into a soft bedding area, cattle will choose to lie in the dirty bedding at the expense to the cleanliness of their hair coat.
  • When the bedding area is frozen to the point where the frozen manure mounds cause discomfort to the cattle attempting to rest lying down, cattle will prefer to lie on clean snow or ice provided that the frozen surface is smooth.
  • The actual bedding material does not affect cattle preference to lying down provided that the surface is comfortable and provides insulative qualities in cold conditions.
  • Although absorbency is essential, other properties of bedding are also important. The compressibility, abrasiveness, and surface wetness of the bedding material all impact animal comfort and ultimately to their health and productivity.
  • Non conventional materials may be effective for bedding provided that they are absorbent, physically and chemically safe, accessible, easy to transport, easy to store before use, effective as an soil amendment and economical.
  • Wood materials such as shavings, sawdust and bark provide effective bedding although they are not as absorbent as cereal straw.
  • Wood materials allow water to move through the bedding pile allowing the surface of the pile to stay dryer than the surface of cereal straw piles. Water will migrate to the bottom of the pile and then move sideways to the edge.
  • Placement of wood material at the bottom of the bedding mound to provide a firm base with cereal straw placed on top of the wood material is successful in providing a dry resting surface.
  • Because wood bedding allows water to drain through easier, the surface tends to be drier allowing the cattle to stay cleaner.

Fact Sheets

Alternative Bedding Materials - available in PDF format only

Bedding Options for Livestock and Equine

Livestock Bedding Alternatives

Next best thing: wood chip bedding for cattle

Using Chopped Newspaper for Animal Bedding -available in PDF format only

Research Papers

Let us know of more good research papers for this topic.

Effects of Bedding Feedlot Cattle During the Winter on Performance, Carcass Quality and Nutirents in Manure - available in PDF format only
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on December 19, 2006.
Last Reviewed/Revised on January 25, 2018.

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