4 Recycled Bedding Options: Good for Cows & Environment

Author: Ania Stilwell | April 19, 2018


4 Recycled Bedding Options: Good for Cows & Environment

A clean, comfortable bed is what dreams are made of. It’s also what cows need. They typically lounge in the barn chewing their cud for up to 13 hours a day, plus catch a few hours of actual shut-eye. May as well be comfortable, right? When a cow is comfortable, she produces more milk. It’s no wonder dairy farmers pay special attention to cow bedding. From sleeping on a beach to drifting off on a water bed to cozying up on piles of what used to be paper, different farms use different types of recycled bedding for their animals.

As we celebrate Earth Day, see how farmers use recycled bedding to make their cows as comfortable as possible.

Photo via Spruce Row Farm

Paper Bedding

Shredded recycled newspapers and other paper waste is turned into cow bedding for 60 to 70 dairy farms throughout New York and Pennsylvania by Syracuse Fiber Recycling. Last year alone, the recycling company kept 61,000 tons of paper rejects out of landfills!  

"Our bedding is produced from various types of recycled cardboard and paper fiber, processed with a lime additive. It is a green product and reduces the impact this material would normally have on landfills in New York State."

Once the cows are done with the bedding, it then can be further recycled by being spread on farm fields.

Sand Bedding

Who doesn’t like lying around on sand! Huffington Post blogger Tim McDonald couldn’t resist during his visit to Welcome Stock Farm. Neither can dairy cows at Mercer Vu Farms, Kilby Cream, and Tiashoke Farm. Watch the sand wagon at Tiashoke Farm shooting sand into the stalls. 

The sand - just like at the beach - is soft under the cow’s large body and easy on their joints. It also provides good traction for when cows want to get up and move about. 

Photo via Cowstalls.com

Photo via Cowstalls.com

Water Beds

At some dairy farms, like Walnut Ridge Dairy and Oakwood Dairy, cows rest in udder comfort on waterbeds. The waterbeds cushion cows in such comfort that farmers say sometimes it is hard to get the cows off their beds.

Water is essential on dairy farms. Each cow drinks about a bathtub full of water a day – that’s about 50 gallons per cow! Water is also recycled or repurposed for cooling milk, and used in washing milking parlors and equipment.

Recycled Manure Solids

On a farm, there’s no waste where waste is concerned. Manure is repurposed as compost on a field or converted to electricity to power a farm. It’s also recycled for cow bedding at El-Vi Farms.

Watch how cows are cared for by 2017 Dairying for Tomorrow Animal Care Award Winner, Table Rock Farm.

There are other types of cow bedding too, from corn husk to grass leftovers and sawdust to other materials that absorb moisture while cushioning the animals. Sometimes the type of bedding used depends on the dairy barn. Whichever bedding a dairy farmer uses on their farm, you can bet it’s in the best interest of their cows… and the environment.

Watch the 2017 Dairying for Tomorrow Environmental Stewardship winners, EZ-Acres Farm, talk about sustainability practices on their farm. 


American Dairy Association North East is one of 19 state and regional promotion organizations working under the umbrella of the United Dairy Industry Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council®, which has been conducting nutrition education and nutrition research programs since 1915. For more information, visit www.americandairy.com.

Created in partnership by the National Football League and National Dairy Council, which was founded by America’s dairy farmers, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fuel Up to Play 60 is the nation’s largest in-school wellness program and creates real transformational change in more than 73,000 schools. Learn more at www.FuelUpToPlay60.com.