Association of bedding types with management practices and indicators of milk quality on larger Wisconsin dairy farms

R.F. Rowbotham, P.L. Ruegg
Publication stage: In Press Corrected Proof


The objective of this study was to identify associations of bedding type and selected management practices with bulk milk quality and productivity of larger Wisconsin dairy farms. Dairy herds (n = 325) producing ≥11,340 kg of milk daily were surveyed during a single farm visit. Monthly bulk milk SCC and total bacteria counts were obtained from milk buyers for 255 farms for a 2-yr period. Of farms with the same type of bedding in all pens during the study period, most used inorganic bedding (IB), followed by organic nonmanure bedding (OB) and manure products (MB). Almost all bulk milk total bacterial counts were <10,000 cfu/mL and total bacterial count was not associated with bedding type. Bulk milk somatic cell score (BMSCS) was least for farms using IB, varied seasonally, and was greatest in the summer. The BMSCS was reduced when new bedding was added to stalls at intervals greater than 1 wk and when teats were dried before attaching the milking unit. The BMSCS for farms using OB was reduced when bedding in the backs of stalls was removed and replaced regularly and when fewer cows with nonfunctioning mammary quarters were present. The BMSCS for farms using MB was reduced when the proportion of cows with milk discarded was less. The rolling herd average (RHA) of herds using IB was 761 and 1,153 kg greater than the RHA of herds using OB and MB, respectively. The RHA was 353 kg greater on farms where farmers understood subclinical mastitis and 965 kg greater on farms milking 3 times daily. Each 1% increase of cows with nonfunctioning mammary quarters was associated with a decrease of 57 kg of RHA. The BMSCS, proportions of cows with milk discarded and proportion of cows with nonfunctioning mammary quarters were least for herds using IB and were associated with increased productivity. Large Wisconsin dairy farms that used inorganic bedding had greater productivity and better milk quality compared with herds using other bedding types.