Regardless of the bedding material you use in your free-stalls or tie-stalls, "the goal is to keep bacteria counts as low as possible," says Russ Bey, professor at the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Bey suggests keeping bacteria levels in bedding below 1 million colony-forming units per cubic centimeter where bedding contacts the udder.

Use the following suggestions to help you accomplish this goal:

1. Keep the stall as dry as possible to limit bacterial growth.

2. If you use an organic bedding material, such as straw or wood shavings, clean off the back one-third of the stall and add 1 to 2 pounds of fresh bedding daily.

3. If you bed stalls with an organic bedding material, clean out the stall completely each week and re-bed with fresh bedding. The frequency of cleaning may vary, however, depending on the weather and the moisture level in the air.

4. Don't "till up" sand bedding. Instead, smooth the surface and add fresh sand to the top. Maintain a level resting surface just above the height of the curb.

5. In sand-bedded stalls, remove sand when it becomes heavily soiled with manure, urine or milk.

6. Keep as much manure out of the stall as possible.