Between Nov 2017 and April 2018, a pilot study was carried out on a dairy goat farm in Taranaki, to compare how different management strategies affected the quality of wood shaving bedding and the impact on animal health. The study was performed in one barn, containing 388 milking goats (increasing to 460 by end of the study). The goats were split into two herds, kept on either side of a barn with a central feed alley. The right side of the barn was managed as the farmer usually would: initially laying fresh wood shavings and then topping up regularly as the surface became dirty. The left side of the barn was initially laid with fresh shavings, and then every 3 days it was aerated with a rotary hoe and only topped up when it became too shallow to aerate.
The purpose of aerating the bedding is to encourage composting to begin and reduce the moist/compact environment with high numbers of anaerobic bacteria and high levels of ammonia. It was also hoped that aerating would reduce the total amount of shavings needed in the season, thus reducing cost of new shavings and help towards reducing the problem of disposal/waste. Intermittently throughout the study the following measurements were taken: Temperature at the surface of the bedding and at a depth of 150mm (at the main sleeping area and bedding next to concrete feeding area), moisture content of the bedding at these same two points, air temperature, humidity, ammonia concentration (measure 500mm above bedding) and animal health records (lameness, mastitis, cheesy gland, johnes disease, SCC records).
The aerated side had a higher temperature at 150mm deep (indicating increased anaerobic activity), was drier and had lower ammonia concentrations than the non-aerated side. There were no significant health problems recorded on either side of the barn during the trial. The estimated saving of cost for wood shavings was $5100, although a tractor and rotary hoe had to be purchased so it would take a couple of years to offset this. This pilot study showed some promising results and concluded that a larger scale study would be worthwhile to fully assess the benefits. Reference: Chesterton, N. Management of bedding on housed dairy goat farms: a pilot study.Vetscript, Vol. 32, Issue 7, pp 48-51, Aug 2019