Last year we surveyed our dairy farming customers on the quantities of bedding material used for milking cows while cubicle housed 24 hours per day. Some farmers had mattresses/mats, some had concrete bases, some stone/chalk bases. The base surface of the cubicle had the biggest effect on quantity of bedding material used. Below is part of the survey relating to average sand use:
Mats/mattresses used the least bedding material. Stone/chalk bases used the most. Interestingly, there were variations of 0.3-3kg chopped straw on mats. The difference in sand usage on deep bed vs mats equates to £60/cubicle saving over 6 months which would pay for concreting cubicle plus mat within 1.5 winters’ use.
When the price of bedding materials (e.g. straw) escalates, people look for alternatives, when they don’t know if they are using their current bedding material as efficiently as possible. The above targets are guidelines. How do you compare? I am not suggesting cutting usage to the detriment of cow welfare or animal health!
Now, in the middle of winter is a good time to assess what you are actually using and plan any changes for next winter whilst still fresh in your mind.
Sand is not a sustainable resource unless you are flood washing and recycling. Sand is abrasive on machinery including your parlour pumps. In the survey bedding costs varied from 11p-40p/cubicle per day or £10,000 (0.66ppl) difference on 200 cubicles over a 180 day winter.
Before changing bedding materials, which may involve changing machinery and making building alterations, if possible, see how you can improve your current system. Contact Gerard at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the survey findings in more detail, or your local FCG office.