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J Dairy Sci. 2005 Oct;88(10):3553-62.

Frequency of feed delivery affects the behavior of lactating dairy cows.

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Animal Welfare Program, The University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4 Canada.


The objectives of this study were to examine how frequency of feed delivery affects 1) the behavior of group-housed and group-fed dairy cows and 2) the extent of feed sorting. These objectives were tested in two experiments. In each experiment, 48 lactating Holstein cows, split into groups of 12, were subjected to each of 2 treatments (over 10-d periods) in a cross-over design. The treatments for the first experiment were 1) delivery of feed once per day (1x) and 2) delivery of feed twice per day (2x). Treatments for the second experiment were 1) delivery of feed 2x and 2) delivery of feed four times per day (4x). For the 1x, 2x, and 4x treatments, feed was pushed up 3, 2, and 0 times per day, respectively. For both experiments, cows had 0.6 m of feeding space; one cows was allowed per lying stall. Time-lapse video was used to quantify the feeding and lying behavior, as well as the aggressive behavior displayed at the feed bunk by the cows. Changes in NDF content of the TMR throughout the day were used to determine the extent of feed sorting by the cows. In both experiments, increased frequency of feed provision increased, as well as changed, the distribution of daily feeding time. The changes in distribution of feeding time resulted in cows having more equal access to feed throughout the day. Frequency of feed delivery had no effect on the daily lying time of the cows or the daily incidence of aggressive interactions at the feed bunk. However, subordinate cows were not displaced as frequently when fed more often. For all treatments, in both experiments, the NDF content of the TMR present in the feed bunk increased throughout the day, indicating that sorting of the feed had occurred. Further, the amount of sorting of the feed was reduced by increasing the frequency of feed delivery from 1x to 2x. These results indicate that frequent delivery of feed improves access to feed for all cows, particularly during peak feeding periods when fresh feed is provided, and reduces the amount of feed sorting.

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