Evidence that dairy farmers really care and prioritise cow comfort and health has been generated by a new survey. Organisers have given the findings to farming unions, Dairy UK and AHDB Dairy with permission to use the data if it helps them promote an accurate and caring image of farming, contrary to misleading propaganda put about all too often by the industry’s numerous critics.
The EnviroBed cubicle bedding study has found that cow comfort is farmers’ number one priority, rated ‘very important’ by 89% and ‘quite important’ by 9%. A close second, scoring 81% very and 13% quite important, is reducing mastitis bugs. Allied to this, number three is high absorbency, with 71% and 16% respectively. Farmers taking part used a variety of different bedding materials.
The importance of reducing humidity in cow housing is also well recognised. To improve ventilation, ridge tiles have been removed by 38% and fans installed by 9% of farmers. Another 18% and 10% respectively are considering these two options.
From the study sponsor, Sally Russell points out that keeping cows clean and comfortable doesn’t need be compromised by this winter’s shortage and high cost of bedding straw.
“Although this is driving up the cost of sawdust and some other materials, there are exceptions,” she says. “For example, some farmers with beef cattle and dairy replacements in straw yards are using a deep bed of EnviroBed Original, made from 100% dried recycled paper. Others place a 15cm layer on the floor and top it off with straw.
“For cubicles, the usual material of choice is EnviroBed Premium, a blend of dried paper and kiln dried virgin wood sawdust. Per cubicle, the recommended daily quantity and cost are just 1kg at less than 10p.”
Both materials are 95% dry matter and mildly alkaline 7.4 pH, helping create a dry and comfortable area that is unfavourable to disease organisms and fly eggs. They are also biodegradable and compatible with all manure systems. Sally Russell says prices remain where they were set in early July, long before the straw shortage came about.