Covered Bedded Shelters for Cows

by Neil Chesterton

Problems of bedding in covered feed-pads

  1. Wet bedding – cows dirty, mastitis, foot problems
  2. Cost of replacing bedding each year

Why might the bedding get too wet?

  1. Too many cows for the size of the barn – less than 8 m2 per cow
  2. Bedding layer too thin – less than 600 mm
  3. Compaction of the bedding – causing anaerobic environment and ammonia produced
  4. Poor material used in the barn – size of the wood chip – shavings and sawdust vs wood chip
  5. Poor cross ventilation in the barn. Poor vertical ventilation


  1. Size of the barn
  2. Good ventilation
  3. Correct bedding material
  4. Regular aeration of the bedding with tines and/or rotary hoe

What does aeration do to the bedding?

  1. Brings the deeper bedding material to the surface
  2. Aeration of the bedding allows the introduction of aerobic (composting) micro-organisms
  3. Causes composting breakdown of the carbon in the bedding material
  4. Causes heat to be produced
  5. All this increases the dryness of the bedding
  6. Produces a product closer to compost to go onto paddocks
  7. Reduces ammonia levels of the bedding
  8. Allows you to use the original bedding possibly up to two or three years before needing to empty out the barn

How do you aerate the bedding?

  1. Regular daily turning of the bedding with tines or a rotary hoe
  2. The deeper the bedding pack (ideally 500 to 600 mm), the better the effect

Summary of interviews with four farmers using covered bedded shelters

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