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Sawdust bedding isn’t always the best

From the Farm

March 16, 2012
By Kerry Hoffman (

By Kerry Hoffman

I know the bedding pack barn works wonders for our cows. I have also learned through the years that it causes problems in other areas on the farm.

Milk production is the highest Steve and I have ever seen! I kid you not, in 20-plus years our cows are performing like Secretariat at all of his races.

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Kerry Hoffman

There are probably several reasons why our cows are rocking the production world.

One is that they are receiving breakfast as soon as they get back to the barn after milking. Zack is out mixing feed before the light of day, every day. The cows don't have to wait around for Steve and me to finish milking to have fresh feed in front of them.

This also keeps the cows on their feet and not lying down on the bedding pack. This allows for the teat end to close a bit, thus preventing bacteria and pathogens from entering the teat end when they do go up on the bedding to relax.

Thirdly, our cows are just so darn comfortable.

Any time I walk up past the barn, they are relaxing on the bedding. It's good to see cows chewing cud with nary a care in the world. Sometimes in the morning we literally have to wake a cow up from her slumber.

Although the sawdust bedding works superbly for the cows, it seems to be a bit of a conundrum when it comes to other pieces of equipment on the farm.

No, it doesn't break things or cause them to sputter out and die; it just makes it a bit more difficult to keep things clean around here.

Usually, messiness isn't too much of a concern, but Monday afternoon, it was my responsibility to get at least one tractor sparkling clean for the Ag-Day Parade on Tuesday.

I never knew washing a tractor would be so maddening. I mean, I wash my car all the time. How hard could it be to get a tractor clean?

Well, it actually is fairly difficult.

Who knew that a tractor could hide cow manure in so many places?

I washed the side of the tractor cab thinking that working my way down from the top would be the best way to tackle this enormous job.

I then moved down to the massive tires.

Did you know the grooves in a tractor tire make water and dirt fly in every direction?

So much for the gleaming tractor cab; it looked like someone took black paint and splattered it over the entire tractor.

I finished the tires and moved back up to the top and rewashed the cab.

The same thing happened when I washed the bucket and grapple on the loader.

It took me at least two hours to get the tractor to a satisfactory shine.

I stood back and gave myself an imaginary pat on the back.

While I was scrubbing and spraying the 7520, a new load of sawdust was getting put in the barn, directly south of where I was cleaning the green beast.

I didn't give it a thought. Well, OK, I did think to myself, "It's going to be nice milking the cows this week; the udders will be so clean."

Later that day, I walked by my clean tractor and it was covered in SAWDUST!

I was horrified! Apparently the cows didn't give a rip when they noticed that running around in the fresh bedding creates a micro dust storm in our back yard! They can be so inconsiderate and rude.

Every single inch of that tractor that faced the sky was covered in a disgruntling thin lay of cherry, oak, maple and probably other types of fresh sawdust.

The only place that kind of dust looks good is on the cows' udders!

I stood in front of the tractor, with slumped shoulders and decided that, "It's a farm tractor and farm tractors are always dirtier than this one. People will understand."

I chose to wait until the following morning to pull out my army of microfiber dusting clothes and attempt to dust it off before the parade, and hope the early morning dew didn't create dirty, icky streaks down the nice green paint.

Sawdust may be good for the cows, but it wreaks havoc on my sparkling-clean tractors.

For questions or comments, e-mail me at



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