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J Dairy Sci. 2007 Dec;90(12):5732-6.

Technical note: validation of a system for monitoring individual feeding and drinking behavior and intake in group-housed cattle.

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


The objective of this study was to validate a system for monitoring individual feeding and drinking behavior and intake in group-housed cattle. A total of 42 Holstein cows were tested with access to 24 feed bins and 4 water bins. For the purposes of this validation experiment, we focused our observations on 4 water bins and 13 feed bins. When the cow approached the feed or water bin, an antenna detected the cow's unique passive transponder and lowered the barrier, allowing the cow access to the feed or water. For each visit to the bin, the system recorded the cow number, bin number, initial and final times and weight and calculated the visit duration and intake. Bins were also monitored by direct observation and time-lapse video recording for 2 d per bin, with observations for 4 and 6 h/d for the feed and water bins, respectively. Data from direct observations were compared with the electronic data recorded by the system. Feed disappearance over 24 h was assessed by using an external scale over 3 consecutive 24-h periods, and these values were compared with the sum of intakes across all visits to that bin for the same time periods. The system showed a high specificity (100%) and sensitivity (100 and 99.76% for the feed and water bins, respectively) for cow identification. The duration of the feeding and drinking visits and the feed and water intake per visit, as estimated by the monitoring system, were highly correlated with those obtained by direct observation (R(2) >/= 0.99 in all the cases). The comparison of the total feed that disappeared from each bin in 24 h with the sum of the feed cows consumed from that bin during the same period differed by less than 1 kg (29.92 +/- 0.90 kg and 29.24 +/- 0.90 kg as estimated by manual weighing and by the electronic system, respectively). This difference could be attributed to changes in feed moisture during the 24-h period. In conclusion, this electronic system is a useful tool for monitoring intakes and feeding and drinking behavior of loose-housed cows.

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