Researchers investigate cow bedding, seek info from organic dairy farmers

BURLINGTON — Mastitis is one of the costliest health issues for dairy cows, and a team of UVM researchers is working to address it by exploring the risks and benefits of common bedding strategies used by Vermont organic farmers.
According to co-Project Director Deb Neher, Ph.D., “Reducing mastitis is an opportunity for increased profitability for organic dairy farmers, healthier animals, improved animal welfare, and a better product for consumers. But to understand and address it, we need to hear from organic dairy farmers.” The team is requesting that farmers take the very quick survey posted online at go.uvm.edu/nqamj.
The team is particularly interested in testing the bedded pack winter housing system — and to do so, they’re hoping to hear from farmers using tie-stall and free-stall barns too. Neher says, “Our preliminary research shows that bedded pack housing systems may support conditions that promote udder health and milk quality. So now we’re seeking to gather information from certified commercial organic farms and get a closer look to compare how different systems impact animal health and milk yield.”
Bedded pack winter housing systems are becoming popular to promote animal health, cow comfort, improve manure management, and meet consumer perceptions.
Jenn Colby, Pasture Program Coordinator at the UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture, who is among the project’s key personnel says, “The team is excited that the project will provide a usable budget tool, and that this research addresses multiple important goals for dairy farmers:  animal welfare, economics, and environmental concerns, by understanding more about how farmers can manage manure as a solid rather than as a liquid. This approach is interdisciplinary, applying methods and concepts from animal/dairy science, microbiology, epidemiology, and agricultural economics.”
For more information, contact Dr. John Barlow at 802-656-1395, [email protected], or visit the research project web page at tinyurl.com/vt-udder-health.

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