Assessment of the Potential for Compost Bedded Pack Barns in Sustainable Organic Dairy Farming Systems
Assessment of the Potential for Compost Bedded Pack Barns in
Sustainable Organic Dairy Farming Systems
H.A. Mussell, J.L. Taraba, K.L. Jacobsen, and J.M. Bewley
Compost bedded pack barns (CBP) take full advantage of composting and manure management to provide a clean, comfortable environment for cows. Although most CBP research has been conducted on conventional dairy farms, organic dairy farms could also benefit from CBP due to increased cow comfort, natural airflow, and manure storage. To assess the potential for CBP use on organic dairy farms, a survey was distributed to through multiple email lists to organic dairy producers across the United States. Twenty-seven surveys were returned. Mean herd size (mean ± SD) was 95.05 ± 78.71 cows. Mean SCC was 182,250 ± 61,605 cells/mL. Twenty-seven percent of producers housed their milking herds in a straw bedded pack, 23% in free stalls, 23% used a year-round pasture based system, 18% used CBP tilled daily, 5% used CBP that were not tilled daily and 5% used tie stall barns. Fifty percent of herds spent 19 to 23 h on pasture/d. Thirty percent spent an average of 12 h/d on pasture. Twenty percent of herds spent 24 h/d on pasture. The number of months that cows spent in a housing system for 24 h/d ranged from >4 months (30%), 3 to 4 months (15%), <2 months (15%) or never in a housing system (30%). Organic dairy producers evaluated how effectively CBP, tie stalls, freestalls, straw-based bedded packs and pasture systems meet the needs of organic dairy herds by using a scale of 1 to 5 (1: poorly meets the needs of organic dairy herds and 5: well-suited for meeting the needs of organic dairy herds). Compost bedded pack barns (4.06 ± 0.64) were the highest ranked system, followed by straw bedded packs (3.84 ± 0.90) pasture based systems (3.39 ± 1.20), and tiestalls (2.72 ± 1.23). Using a scale of 1 to 5 (1: strongly disagree and 5:strongly agree), benefits of the CBP were ranked as shelter (4.47 ± 0.51), cow comfort (4.42 ± 0.69), access to fresh air (4.17 ± 0.99), and ventilation (4.17 ± 1.04). Compost bedded pack barns appear to be a viable housing option for organic dairy farms.
Keywords: Compost bedded pack barns, organic, cow comfort