Is RMS the ultimate bedding?

Published 14 November 13

It’s increasingly used in Denmark and the Netherlands, and a wide number of US dairy farmers already do it.  The use of Recycled Manure Solids (RMS) for bedding dairy cows is a practice that is starting to attract attention in the UK.  This is why DairyCo has commissioned QMMS Ltd, Nottingham University and The Dairy Group to weigh up the benefits, risks and issues around bedding cows on RMS. 

The main impetus is the legal uncertainty surrounding this technique in the UK is in relation to the animal by-products regulations. This scoping study will allow the dairy industry and government regulators to better understand the potential implications of using RMS for bedding under UK conditions and its impact on public or animal health.

RMS is the solid fraction from manure – a peat-like fibre usually between 30 and 60% dry matter – which can be produced through simple separation of the liquid and solid parts of slurry using a screw press; other options are to put the manure through an anaerobic digester before separation, or compost or dry the solids before use. 

But it’s a tricky subject.  The countries in which it has achieved greatest success tend to have hot, dry conditions for at least some of the year.  This reduces the bacterial load and creates a more inert material.  Texture-wise, it’s perfect for cows.

Evidence shows that a deep, formable material which provides support and cushioning when getting up and down is what cows opt for every time.  Sand, currently the top choice of bedding for many, can cause machinery wear, blockages in anaerobic digesters and unless separated and reused, is an expensive and non-renewable resource. 

So RMS could provide an available alternative – renewable, natural and endless. However, if not handled correctly, could it host harmful organisms, not just increasing risk of mastitis but other diseases too?  The study is due to report in February 2014, so watch this space.

In the meantime, find out more about this study and the EU animal by-product regulations