There are a number of critical factors to take into consideration when planning bedding in free-stall barns. The surface needs to be long-lasting and easy to maintain. It should be absorbing well or leading water away. It should ensure good foothold to avoid injuries so avoid surfaces that tend to become slippery when wet. The flooring should be soft and comfortable and not hard, cold and moist. The surface should be made of a stabile material to avoid the growth of pathogenic bacteria. You need to consider the price against the option of reducing or increasing the number of injuries to animals.
There are various recommendations for tie-stall and free-stall barns. The most important is if the cows stand and lie in the same flooring. Solutions with cow mats in tie-stall barns should ensure a soft bedding and good support when the cows stand.
Previously, cows used to be on pasture, but nowadays they stay a lot more in the barn. Flooring and bedding should give comfort to modern cows and would usually be:
organic material (straw, saw dust and recycled manure solids)
inorganic bedding (sand and rubber mattresses)
We will review the different bedding options and what you should pay special attention to in posts 9 and 10.