The 16 Advantages of Dairy Sand Bedding

There are SO MANY advantages to sand bedding for dairy cows. University researchers are quoted extensively in dairy magazines and websites touting the advantages of sand.

We thought we’d stretch our humor muscles and come up with a few “advantages” that are often overlooked. Of course all of these “advantages” are the direct result of sand management issues—which are often the direct result of LIFE and things you can’t control. When an employee quits, when you get sick, when it rains and then the sun comes out and you’re behind on field work, when your sand supplier sends you a bad load of sand, when your equipment breaks—all of these things are out of your control, and that’s when the headaches of managing sand can spin out of control, too.

Some of these “advantages” have popped up in barns we’ve visited recently. So, have a chuckle about ol’ Mr. Sand with us. He’s not perfect either.

Did you know that research shows that DCC Waterbeds perform on par with sand bedding in preventing hock lesions and injuries? A 2007 study published in the Journal of Dairy Science reported that 95% of the cows on waterbeds had hock scores of 0 and 1, while 97.5% of the cows on sand had hock scores of 0 or 1 (compared to just 82% of the cows on mattresses having scores of 0 and 1).That means DCC Waterbeds were within 2.5% of sand – those are some healthy hocks on both sand and DCC Waterbeds. Visit for the complete study.

Let’s celebrate sand by listing ALL of its "advantages:"

1) Your cows will never be lonely. With the excitement of sand flies joining the cows for a nap in the summer, your cows will always have someone to keep them company. Sand flies are like pets for your cows, irritating little pets.

2) Regular shopping sprees! Since you love shopping, sand allows you to do more of it, more often. With regular repair to your manure handling equipment shopping for parts, pumps, scraper blades and chains is guaranteed.

3) You love paying for things twice! You buy sand endlessly by the ton, and then get to pay to dig it out of the lagoon and haul it out to the fields each year.

4) Cows don’t need to get up for a snack. Isn’t it great that cows under-the-weather love to lick sand? They can just lay around all day and lick the sand until they feel better.

5) Provides a hobby for cows. It may be boring for some people, but collecting rocks can be a magnificent hobby! The variety, size, and composition of stones found in sand can create a lovely rock collection for the aspiring cow collector.

6) Keeps cows fit. Not only do cows get to dig in the sand in the front of the stall and kick the sand out the back of the stall – all, apparently, to stay fit while creating their perfect little sand heaven, but when it rains and snows and the sand gets frozen into chunks, cows can have a sand-ball-fight!

7) Keeps your farm connected. Your balance sheet stays connected with the outside world, and sand helps keep you even more connected – to the price of sand, labor, and fuel as all of your sand hauling equipment guzzle it.

8) Cow pedicures come free with sand bedding. It’s like living in a spa when you have sand bedding, right? The hooves are nice and smooth, sometimes too smooth, sometimes way too smooth.

9) Eliminates idle hands. Have an extra half hour? Don’t go check the score of the game, go rake your sand stalls. Have an extra hour? Don’t go play catch with your kids, go groom your sand stalls. Any time you have a little bit extra, you should probably go rake your sand, or replace it completely. The more often you do, the more comfortable your cows are going to be.

10) Eliminates boredom in the parlor. The parlor is usually a quiet, slow-pace place to work, so with sand, you can combat boredom by having parlor staff wipe off grimy, sand coated udders. Wouldn’t want them to have nothing to do.

11) Cows lie down longer (even when they don’t want to). Ever seen a cow stuck under a free stall loop or a fresh cow struggling to gain footing on sand? On the bright side, she’ll lie down longer.

12) Superior comfort. According to Dr. Mich Schutz at Purdue (#162), sand provides superior cushioning for knees and hocks. We don’t dispute this fact. In fact, we’re happy that DCC Waterbeds on par with sand in terms of comfort.*

*Sand must be at least 6-8 inches sloped from head to tail, and the rear level should not be below the curb. Approximately 40 pounds per stall per day should be added to the stalls. Stalls must be the correct dimensions. Stalls should be groomed during milking (2-3 times per day). Compare to DCC Waterbeds cleaning.

13) Sand does not support bacterial growth. Sand is inorganic, so bacteria find the environment hostile, helping prevent mastitis.**

**Sand must be groomed to prevent pooling of liquid and manure in the sand creating “dirt” where bacteria can freely grow. Grooming and refilling are extremely important, regardless of whether it is a busy season or you have an emergency to attend to. Also, when using a sand-manure-recycling system you must make sure the sand gets clean and dries. Compare to the maintenance of DCC Waterbeds.

14) Sand is easy to maintain during milking.***

***Unless you are the one milking. Or you are looking to cut down labor costs. Or you’ve switched to robots, so no one is milking, then you’re just disrupting the cows. 

15) Sand is cool in the summer.****

****If the cow lies on top of the freshly groomed sand beds and doesn’t dig down deep. IF. 

16) Sand is relatively inexpensive^

^If you have an available source of inexpensive sand or happen to have a dairy set up for sand-manure-separation (a system that can cost upward of $1,000,000). Otherwise, when you add in labor, sand costs, and equipment wear and tear, the cost of sand may not justify the relative comfort levels. 

Accessories not included: Sand hauling equipment, sand blowers, sand levelers, sand rakes, front-end loaders, manure equipment replacement parts, fuel.

Author's note: We at DCC Waterbeds intend this to be a humorous, tongue-in-cheek message about some of the headaches of managing sand. Of course we know that all dairy producers - sand/waterbed/flat mat/manure solids/pasture based/etc. - are doing their best to create optimal levels of cow comfort. Our point is simply this: not everyone believes that managing sand is worth the effort, or find themselves in a position where they do not have the resources to manage it at a high enough level to maintain cow comfort. We hope you can laugh with us. After all, we sell cow waterbeds and get laughed at all the time.