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Institute of

OF Organic Farming


Natural bedding material - a risk factor for organic dairy cows?

Bedding materials and management - their significance for the development of mastitis pathogens and infections in organic dairy farming

In organic farms, a natural bedding material has to be provided in the lying areas of cows. However, bacteria and other mastitis pathogens may grow very well under these conditions. Thus, the risk for the cows to get infected by these pathogens increases as well. The project investigated how organic dairy farmers handle their bedding material, and whether an increased risk for the organic dairy cows really exists.

Background and Objective

Mastitis is one of the most important production diseases in organic as well as in conventional farming. The required use of natural origin materials for bedding in organic dairy farms may increase the risk for mammary infections with environmental pathogens. This project focused to follow the potential chain of infection bedding material – lying area – udder skin – teat canal – udder lumen to identify the critical points and to derive management recommendations for organic dairy farms.


For this purpose 30 organic dairy farms were visited twice to collect samples of the bedding material prior to its use, swabs from the udder skin and the teat canal plus foremilk samples for cyto-bacteriological analyses. In addition the milk flow curves of the sampled animals were gained using the LactoCorderÒ system to reveal the predisposition of the cows for loose teat sphincters. At least ten animals and two quarters per animal were sampled on each farm visit. To consider the seasonal differences the farms were visited once during the summer and the winter. In addition, farms participating in the project concerning “Health and performance of cows in organic dairy farming…” (BÖLN 07OE012…22), were questioned concerning the handling of bedding material and their management of the lying areas.


Straw is the preferred bedding material in organic dairy farming, and its quality was often high scored. Risk factors specific for organic farming could not be identified, only farm individual shortcomings were revealed. Only a few of the 30 farms used straw with counts of esculin-positive Streptococci and E. coli above the recommended thresholds. Most of the straw samples had concentrations of coliforme bacteria higher than the limit of 104 cfu per mL. However, no correlation between these bacteria counts and specific management practices could be found. The study showed that infection causing bacteria could be found along the investigated chain and that the spectrum of coagulase-negative staphylococci varies from bedding material to milk samples. However, the expected influence of the milkability on the infection rate could not be detected in this study.

Links and Downloads


9.2009 - 12.2011

Involved external Thünen-Partners

  • Hochschule Hannover
    (Hannover, Deutschland)

Funding Body

  • Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE)
    (national, öffentlich)


9.2009 - 12.2011

More Information

Project funding number: 2808OE196
Funding program: Bundesprogramm Ökologischer Landbau und andere Formen nachhaltiger Landwirtschaft (BÖLN)
Project status: finished


  1. 0

    Barth K, Frank K, Häußermann A, Aulrich K, Krömker V (2013) Mastitiserreger in der Einstreu, auf der Zitzenhaut und im Zitzenkanal, sowie in der Milch ökologisch gehaltener Kühe. In: Neuhoff D, Stumm C, Ziegler S, Rahmann G, Hamm U, Köpke U (eds) Beiträge zur 12. Wissenschaftstagung Ökologischer Landbau : Ideal und Wirklichkeit: Perspektiven ökologischer Landbewirtschaftung . Berlin: Köster, pp 472-473

  2. 1

    Barth K, Murk K, Brinkmann J, March S, Volling O, Weiler M, Weiß M, Drerup C, Krömker V (2011) Einstreumanagement in der Ökologischen Milchviehhaltung. Landbauforsch SH 346:41-48

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