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How to Collect Bedding Samples

Risk factors for clinical mastitis include environmental pathogens. Taking bedding samples can be an important factor in evaluation of environmental interactions with mastitis.

Safety Instructions

  • Wear disposable gloves. Change gloves when soiled.
  • A dairy farm is a hazardous environment. Beware of cow movement and heavy machinery.

Sample Bedding Supplies


  • Disposable gloves Sealable bags (1 gallon, e.g. zip lock)
  • Cooler with ice for transportation
  • Permanent marker

Bedding Collection Instructions

Step 1

Go to the pen(s) prior to routine stall cleaning.

Note the type of bedding and management.

Step 1 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 2

Evaluate all functional stalls.

Step 2 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 3

Evaluate stall cleanliness as 1 or 2.

1 = mostly/completely clean (no evidence of manure/urine, e.g. just looks used)
2 = dirty (piles of manure, urine pooling)

Step 3 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 4

Evaluate the bedding quantity for deep beds.

1 = adequate bedding: minimal curb exposure
2 = inadequate bedding: visible curbs, holes where cows lay down

Step 4 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 5

Evaluate the bedding quantity for mattresses.
1 = adequate bedding: none or only one small bare spot (<32 in), mattress not visible
2 = inadequate bedding: no bedding, mattress visible in multiple spots

Step 5 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 6

Continue with the next steps after routine stall maintenance but prior to lime application.

Step 6 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 7

Sample 3 to 5 representative stalls. Use a new bag for each sample.

Step 7 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 8

Only sample bedding from the 2’ x 2’ section where the udder would touch the stall.
Scrape 1 inch off the top of the bedding material into a new bag.

Step 8 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 9

DO NOT Walk behind the vehicle delivering new bedding.

Have vehicle dump extra bedding in 5 stalls (throughout pen) and collect from the top of this pile (avoiding any used bedding).

Step 9 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 10

Open a new bag and let some bedding flow into the bag.

Step 10 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 11

Keep following the bedding vehicle throughout the whole pen and collect 5 samples. All 5 samples go into 1 bag.

Step 11 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 12

Label the bags with this information

  • Farm
  • Date
  • New or used bedding
  • Type of bedding (e.g. sand, manure solids)

Step 12 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 13

Place the samples in a cooler with ice for travel.
Freeze, if they are not processed the same day.

Step 13 Sample Bedding Collection

Step 14

Conduct the farm survey before leaving the dairy (if applicable).

Step 14 Sample Bedding Collection


Environmental pathogens are an important risk factor for clinical mastitis in dairy cows. Bedding is a potential infection source and should be evaluated.

Collect new bedding directly from the bedding vehicle.

It is important to sample strictly according to this SOP to minimize variability of results.