Compost bedded pack is an alternative loose floor system or approach for dairy housing facilities that is typically suited to warmer and dryer climates. The set up often utilises centralised cow alleys and feed alleys, and in this respect the layout can be similar to freestall facilities. A key difference is the bedded pack area replaces individual stalls.

To perform well adequate bedding material (wood chip or sawdust), cow spacing and ventilation are critical. The bedded pack requires aeration twice a day to refresh the surface and enhance microbial activity in the pack. Appropriate ventilation (air exchange) is needed to remove cow heat and moisture, as well as the heat and moisture that the biologically active pack generates. Compost pack housing generally have an overhanging eave to minimize roof runoff and rain from being blown in onto the bedded pack.

The concept of this system is that it provides a loose housing environment where the animals have a larger, open resting area and a softer lying surface. Simultaneously, the system follows an intensively managed compost process. These systems may accommodate longer term occupation of the herd, depending on spacing allowances, and provide flexibility manage the calving process and cows requiring treatment.

Potential Benefits


  • Significant improvement in feed ration utilisation


  • All weather facility to manage herd comfort, with potential to buffer the impact of adverse weather conditions on cow production
  • Minimise herd travel to and from grazing, and the associated production losses or lameness, if an issue
  • More efficient in managing calving cows


  • A cheaper option to install bedding material on a compacted clay base as opposed to concrete and steel stalls
  • Minimises farm maintenance costs associated with paddock renovation following soil pugging and compaction
  • Reduces farm maintenance costs associated with laneway surfacing and paddock gateways
  • Regular source of organic composted material to enhance soil fertility

Potential Limitations

  • Significant capital outlay to establish
  • Increased reliance on high quality supplements being grown or purchased, the latter exposed to the risk of seasonal price changes
  • System relies on adequate bedding material, typically wood product, that is readily accessible. Sawdust is not recommended
  • Skilled labour and machinery required to manage the compost pack area twice daily
  • Potential to compromise herd health if bedding area is not managed to a high standard
  • Large infrastructure footprint within a property required to address numerous environmental standards
  • Potential for increased regulatory attention with odour emissions and community amenity concerns
  • Requires two effluent systems to manage the cow alley slurry and composted area solids
  • Only recommended for farm regions with warmer and drier conditions to assist with the mangling of the composted area

System Design Considerations

Significant components

  • Bedding material (woodchip)
  • Earthworks  Effluent system
  • Mixer wagons
  • Tractor (120hp+)
  • Aeration machinery
  • Ongoing machinery maintenance costs, fuel
  • Feed bunkers


  • Structurally designed and engineered to provide permanent infrastructure, accommodating adequate space, ventilation, cooling and comfort
  • Site preparations and investigations to ensure nutrient leaching from the composted area is adequately drained and managed without environmental impact
  • Consider working through and establishing an Environmental Impact Statement


  • Feed supply management plan securing all supplementary feed (on farm or off farm) required to sustain production annually
  • Feed bunker area and machinery required to handle and supply a range of supplementary feed sources


  • Appropriately designed and managed facility to support higher level of cow comfort
  • Appropriate space allocation for hospital herd, breeding and calving etc.
Other Jobs
  • The bedding area will require fortnightly to monthly topping up
  • Annual cleaning to remove and replace entire compost bedding
  • Need to regularly monitor compost temperature

Adviser tips

  1. A significant investment which requires sound financial and business advice
  2. Ensure reliable supply of bedding material is available to meet regular demand
  3. Be prepared to spend considerable time monitoring and managing the composted area