Bedded pack workshop

Bedded Pack Workshops Highlight Best Management Practices 

By Kelsie Meehan and Whitney Hull, UVM Extension

In October 2023, UVM Extension and Vermont NRCS co-hosted two on-farm bedded pack workshops with special guest speaker, Dr. Marcia Endres, professor of Animal Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

The workshops were well-attended, with a total of 59 dairy and livestock farmers and service providers from Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York participating across the two days. 

Dr. Endres, an expert in dairy cattle production and well-being, shared the findings of her extensive research on bedded pack barns for dairy production, discussing considerations specific to cold climates such as Vermont. She highlighted good management as the key to success with bedded pack structures, such as tilling and using enough bedding material to regulate pack moisture, providing adequate ventilation, and keeping overstocking to a minimum. When these best management practices are applied, bedded pack barns can enhance cow comfort, reduce lameness, encourage expression of natural behaviors, and offer potential labor savings. 

Dr. Endres emphasized that maintaining clean and dry bedding is essential to avoid the potential for increased risk of mastitis in a bedded pack structure. She explained that sourcing adequate bedding has been a limiting factor for the expansion of bedded pack barns in Minnesota, where, like in Vermont, bedding materials such as wood shavings have become more expensive and more challenging to source. 

Bob Thompson of NRCS discussed examples of bedded pack barns in Vermont, management considerations, and the financial support programs available from NRCS. 

The two host farms highlighted different management styles of bedded pack barns.

People standing inside a bard
Bedded pack workshop at Stony Pond Farm. Photo by Kelsie Meehan

Tyler and Melanie Webb of Stony Pond Farm in Fairfield gave a tour of their active composting bedded facilities, which house their milkers and dry cows during the winter months when they are not on pasture. The Webbs manage their bedded packs by tilling twice daily and applying wood shavings weekly and as needed. 

Rich and Mandy Hulett of Deer Flats Farm in Pawlet gave a tour of their deep bedded pack barns that house their weaned heifers and dry cows and serve as their calving facility. The Huletts bed their pack three times per week with wood chips and remove all pack material to be stacked for composting every 8-10 weeks as needed. 

Holstein cows inside a barn
Bedded pack workshop at Deer Flats Farm. Photo by Whitney Hull

Farmer-to-farmer connections were a highlight of the workshops, with producers discussing their management practices and barn design considerations. Additionally, all participants received a certificate of training completion from NRCS, making them eligible to apply for financial assistance for bedded pack structures through NRCS EQIP. 

These workshops were sponsored by the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center and organized by Kelsie Meehan and Whitney Hull of UVM Extension’s Dairy Herd Management Technical Assistance Program, which offers support to dairy farms statewide.

To work with our team, please contact us via our online request form, or call or email us directly: Kelsie Meehan: kelsie.meehan@uvm.edu (802) 656-4829 Whitney Hull: whitney.hull@uvm.edu (802) 656-7563 

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