side view of the pack in a barn

Happy, healthy, profitable animals are the central goal of livestock farmers.  Bedded pack housing can be a path to that goal.

Bedded pack is a strategy for providing for animal health and comfort and managing manure, during the winter months.  It refers to accumulated bedding materials and manure under covered housing.  The pack is then composted after winter ends and the animals are back on pasture, and helps build soil fertility

Research: Bedded Pack Systems on Organic Dairy Farms

Bedded Pack in the Barn

A team of researchers* from UVM Extension Animal Sciences, Plant & Soil Sciences and the Center for Sustainable Agriculture is continuing work on a multi-year project to:

  1. Assess current bedding management practices, mastitis management, animal health, and milk quality on Vermont dairies;
  2. Understand mastitis epidemiology, bedding microbiology and characteristics, and bedding management practices, and
  3. Explore microbial community function of the intra-mammary gland and how it impacts susceptibility to mastitis infection.

    Trade-offs in economics and environmental impacts of the back and manure management will be assessed and the results compiled in a management guide of best practices to reduce mastitis risk on organic dairy farms.  A project summary can be found on Dr. Barlow's webpages, and a research update with preliminary findings was shared in 2015. In 2019, the team began outreach to organic dairy farmers in order to enlist farmers in the next phase of bedded pack research.

* The research team is made up of John Barlow (Principal Investigator); Deborah Neher; Tucker Andrews; Tom Weicht; Jenn Colby and Juan Alvez.

Bedded Pack in Vermont: Five Stories Publication

Farmer Earl Ransom Checks his Bedded Pack

This 16-page publication details the experiences, approaches, challenges and successes of five Vermont dairy farms who have installed bedded pack barns; Swallowdale Farm in Orwell, Rock Bottom Farm in Strafford, Fournier Farm in Swanton, Choiniere Family Farm in Highgate and Dancing Cow Farm in Bridport.

PDF icon Download a PDF file of Bedded Pack in Vermont: Five Stories to learn the most important questions to ask yourself if you're considering installing a bedded pack barn, and to access information about the economics of different approaches, the effectiveness of different bedding materials, labor implications, and more.

Bedded Pack Workshops (Required for NRCS Practice Support)

Holsteins and a Bedded Pack Barn on a Vermont Dairy

Vermont NRCS requires that farmers receiving support for the installation of bedded pack attend a workshop.  The Center offers these each winter (in 2018 they were offered in February).  Contact Jenn via email if you'd like to be added to the list to receive information about them when the next round is announced.  (You can also subscribe to our monthly Pasture Calendar, which we always use to announce these and other events of interest to area grass farmers.)

 

Interested in knowing more about the Center's work or do you have a question we haven't answered here?  Contact us at cheryl.herrick@uvm.edu or  802-656-5459 and we'll do our best to help.

Woodcut of a farm with people gathering produce and cows grazing

Contact

  • Help with a plan for grazing your livestock:  Kimberly Hagen at  802-656-3834 or.kimberly.hagen@uvm.edu
  • General inquiries and potential partnerships: Jenn Colby at 802-535-7606 or jcolby@uvm.edu
  • Vermont Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program Education Coordinator Mary Ellen Franklin at MaryEllen.Franklin@uvm.edu
  • Pasture walks and other upcoming events: Colene Reed at colene.reed@uvm.edu
  • Help with your Connecticut River watershed farm, including nutrient management and other water quality-related issues: Laura Johnson at laura.o.johnson@uvm.edu
  • Research questions or ideas: Juan Alvez at 802-656-6116 or juan.alvez@uvm.edu
  • Include pasture-related events in online or email Pasture Calendars: Cheryl Herrick at cheryl.herrick@uvm.edu

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