Feasibility of Miscanthus as alternative bedding for dairy cows

https://doi.org/10.17221/8059-VETMEDCitation:Van Weyenberg S., Ulens T., De Reu K., Zwertvaegher I., Demeyer P., Pluym L. (2015): Feasibility of Miscanthus as alternative bedding for dairy cows. Veterinarni Medicina, 60: 121-132.
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Despite dairy farmers’ awareness of the importance of correct bedding for the health and comfort of their cows, they are often frugal with respect to these bedding materials in order to reduce costs. In addition, farmers are currently dependent on the availability and price fluctuations of traditional bedding materials. For these reasons, the scientific literature as well as the trade press point to an intensifying search for affordable alternative bedding materials. The aim of this study was to investigate whether Miscanthus, a woody grass that requires low input but generates high yield, could replace straw in deep little dairy cow cubicles. The cows’ cubicles were lined for two consecutive 14-day periods with straw/chalk/water bedding, followed by two consecutive 14-day periods with ground-Miscanthus/chalk bedding. No significant differences were found in the following parameters: loss/waste of bedding material, bacterial growth in cubicles, cow skin lesions (except for carpus lesions), cow cleanliness or cow comfort. Dust concentrations measured as PM10 were higher when cubicles were filled with straw-based bedding, but never exceeded workspace quality safety limits. Based on these results, one can conclude that Miscanthus has potential as a viable alternative to straw when used as a bedding material. On-farm cultivation of Miscanthus may increase dairy farmer self-sufficiency and could reduce bedding costs.
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