Burlington, Vermont –  Mastitis is one of the costliest health issues for dairy cows, and a team of UVM researchers is working to address it by exploring the risks and benefits of common bedding strategies used by Vermont organic farmers.

According to co-Project Director Deb Neher, Ph.D., “Reducing mastitis is an opportunity for increased profitability for organic dairy farmers, healthier animals, improved animal welfare, and a better product for consumers.”

“But to understand and address it, we need to hear from organic dairy farmers!” she adds. The team is requesting that farmers take the very quick survey posted online at http://go.uvm.edu/nqamj

The team is particularly interested in testing the bedded pack winter housing system – and to do so, they’re hoping to hear from farmers using tie-stall and free-stall barns too. Neher adds: “Our preliminary research shows that bedded pack housing systems may support conditions that promote udder health and milk quality.  So now we’re seeking to gather information from certified commercial organic farms and get a closer look to compare how different systems impact animal health and milk yield.”

Bedded pack winter housing systems are becoming popular to promote animal health, cow comfort, improve manure management, and meet consumer perceptions.   Read more about them online at https://www.uvm.edu/extension/sustainableagriculture/bedded-pack-barns-cow-comfort-and-winter-manure-management.

Jenn Colby, Pasture Program Coordinator at the UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture, who is among the project’s Key Personnel says, “The team is excited that the project will provide a usable budget tool, and that this research addresses multiple important goals for dairy farmers:  animal welfare, economics, and environmental concerns by understanding more about how farmers can manage manure as a solid rather than as a liquid. This approach is interdisciplinary, applying methods and concepts from animal/dairy science, microbiology, epidemiology, and agricultural economics.”

The research team includes John Barlow (Principal Investigator), Deborah Neher, Tucker Andrews, Tom Weicht, Jenn Colby and Juan Alvez, as well as an active and knowledgeable team of advisors.

The study was awarded by the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, and is supported by USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI, proposal award: 2018-02835). 

For more information, contact Dr. John Barlow (john.barlow@uvm.edu) at: 802-656-1395, or visit the research project web page at: https://www.uvm.edu/extension/sustainableagriculture/bedding-strategies-udder-health-organic-dairy-farms

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) plays a key role in meeting the University of Vermont’s mission as Vermont’s Land Grant University. While connected to traditional agriculture of the past, our programs address current issues that are key to the future of Vermont, the nation and the world. With a focus on the study of the life sciences, CALS programs range from the basic science of molecular genetics to plant and animal ecosystems, and from human nutrition to international development. CALS provides educational and research opportunities that reach from “cells to society”.

Established in 1994, the Center for Sustainable Agriculture provides timely information to Vermont communities and the UVM campus.   Part of the University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Extension, the Center cultivates partnerships, supports innovative research and practices, and informs policy to advance sustainable food and farming systems.  Learn more at http://www.uvm.edu/~susagctr/.


Cheryl Herrick
2013 Story on Bedded Pack Barns
2013 Video Story on Bedded Pack Barns from Across the Fence