The aim of this study was to compare an improved bedding composition with conventional straw bedding under farm conditions, regarding its effects on the influence of indicator microorganisms on the hygiene levels of cubicle floors and the occurrence of mastitis in dairy cows. Dairy cows were housed in newly built stalls divided into two parts, each with four subsections, and bedded cubicles arranged in three rows. Five stall subsections from each 9-bedded cubicle were selected for study, and 30 dairy cows were monitored according to the time intervals of bedding treatment for cubicles. In the first subsection (control), the cows were housed in bedded cubicles layered with straw up to a height of 20 cm. Sections 2–5 had alternative bedding (AB) as follows: fresh AB, AB 1 month old, AB 2 months old, and AB 3 months old, which were bedded one day before (fresh) and 1–3 months before the actual observation period, respectively. The alternative bedding per one cubicle consisted of ground limestone (100 kg), water (80 L), recycled manure solids (RMS; 15 kg), and straw (25 kg). After laying, the bedding was treated with a concrete selector to provide strength and sufficient resistance. A total of 180 bedding and 600 quarter milk samples were taken simultaneously from all five monitored subsections for microbiological determination. Comparing classical straw bedding with the alternate bedding showed a stabilizing effect by keeping the bedding thickness up to the floor barrier level, which had a beneficial effect by reducing the level of fecal contamination in the rear of the cubicle. Fecal coliforms and fecal streptococci were found to be reduced in one-day-old bedding as well as after the first, second, and third months. By evaluating the health status of the mammary glands, a positive effect was noted in reducing the occurrence of subclinical mastitis, which was reflected in a reduced number of infected quarters in the group of cows housed in cubicles for three months after use of improved bedding.
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