Ohio State University veterinary researcher Jeff LeJeune has found that the kind of bedding that cows sleep on affects the volume and survival rate of potentially deadly E. coli 0157:H7 in the farm environment.
LeJeune’s study found the prevalence of the bacteria in animals from sand-bedded herds was significantly lower than in animals from sawdust-bedded herds. The total number of positive samples in sand-bedded animals was less than half that found in sawdust-bedded animals, 56 out of 1,800.
Sand bedding contains less available organic matter and nutrients, so it isn’t as hospitable to reproducing bacteria as sawdust bedding.

“Approximately 17 percent of ground beef comes from dairy cows that go to slaughter,” LeJeune said. “One cow contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7 that is sent to the slaughterhouse can contaminate many other cows, and this can result in the contamination of millions of pounds of ground beef.”