Thoughts on Deep Bedding

Our cows must think we are room service. They didn’t even get up yesterday when Julie added a bale of straw. Things are pretty comfy in the barn. Air can blow through as the building is not tight but the wind is slowed considerably. That’s a good thing for getting rid of ammonia but the better way to deal with ammonia is to capture it in carbon. Further, the deep bedding, once it builds mass, becomes a living, composting entity of its own. We started with the sawdust. 6 buckets of oak sawdust.


I spread that evenly over about half of the barn. Why only half? Because the barn is huge and the herd is small. We used corral panels later to cut the cows off from the rest of the building. I could either bed the whole thing or have my bedding twice as deep. We topped off the sawdust with four square bales of straw. Each day we add a bale of straw, more if needed.

It is interesting how quickly that first layer of bedding gets soiled or otherwise worked into the barn floor. We add bedding every day for several days until, finally, we seem to reach some critical mass and the bedding needs taper off considerably. The calves are at that point now except in front of their feeder. That sees such heavy traffic there is no hope for it. If the cows stay here for long the bedding will build up to a nice, thick layer. I think they will only be here for the week though.


There really isn’t much for the cows to do these days. They get up and eat. They lay down and chew their cud. They walk to the water tanks. They lay down and chew their cud. I put a little kelp and a little salt in the feed bunk but otherwise, that’s the life of the cow hotel.


There is a round bale of alfalfa available at all times and we offer grass/clover square bales twice each day. They really seem to want the grass. We feed them outdoors because that’s the current setup. I have the bunks. The cows are there. No big whoop.

I have to say, this isn’t really any easier or necessarily harder than having the cows on pasture. I have a little less walking and water is easier to manage but I’m have to bring the feed to them stored feed and bedding. The cows are, I think, better off. We’re in for a few days of cold weather and it’s far below what we want to subject our pet milk cows to. The shorthorns don’t seem to care either way but I don’t want to split the herd so here we are.

No pictures of manure today. You can bet I looked at it though. It looked nice…as far as manure goes anyway.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Deep Bedding

  1. Seriously, what else do cows do all day? Sounds like situation normal to me – eat, chew cud, sleep, eat, chew cud….

    Do you have piped water in the barn, or do you have to drain pipes for the winter and haul water? Because I bet water hauling would have me keeping cows close by in cold weather, if nothing else.

    • I have spigots around the farm here and there. We run hoses from spigots. I had to buy a new hose the other night as all of ours were frozen…in spite of our best efforts to drain them. Sigh.

      What else do cows do? Kick up their heels and run.

  2. question about straw vs hay- we use our grass hay for duck bedding (also do the deep method for 3 years now, because our tractor doesn’t fit in the barn-grrrr) and I have often wondered if straw might be better. Seeing as cows also can have nice moist voluminous poops, what do you think?

    • Really, it depends on a couple of things. If the next step is to compost the bedding and use it in your garden you probably don’t want to use grass hay. It’s hard to compost out the seeds. The other factor to consider is price. We use more sawdust than anything in our bedding pack. Our greenhouse is a foot deep with sawdust under the chickens. The reasons are two: Straw/hay tend to mat down. Also, sawdust is significantly cheaper where I live. I don’t know where you are but there should be something local and cheap available for your bedding needs. Grass hay may be the best option. Or rice hulls. Sawdust is cheap here. Really, I just get it for the cost of hauling 10 miles from here.

  3. The only thing i don’t like about deep bedding is clean up. I don’t have a tractor so i have to do it by hand. I think I’m going to sprinkle grain in the bedding this year and send in the hogs to fluff it all.

    For the sheepies I gotta use hay: sawdust or chips will ruin their wool. bummer!

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