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J Dairy Sci. 2013 Mar;96(3):1803-10. doi: 10.3168/jds.2012-6012. Epub 2013 Jan 26.

Short communication: effects of frequency of feed delivery and bunk space on the feeding behavior of limit-fed dairy heifers.

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Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Kemptville Campus, 830 Prescott Street, Kemptville, Ontario, K0G 1J0, Canada.


The objective of this experiment was to determine the interaction between feed bunk space and frequency of feed provision on the feeding behavior patterns and growth of growing dairy heifers fed a limited amount. Sixteen Holstein dairy heifers (183.4 ± 9.1 d of age, mean ± standard deviation) were divided into 4 groups of 4. The groups were exposed to each of 4 treatments, using a 4 × 4 Latin square design with a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments, over 21-d periods (14-d adaptation period, 7-d data collection periods). The treatments were arranged in 2 feed delivery frequencies (once per day at 1200 h: 1 ×/d, and twice per day at 1200 and 1400 h: 2 ×/d) and 2 levels of feed bunk space (adequate feed bunk space: 0.40 m/heifer, and reduced feed bunk space: 0.29 m/heifer). Pen dry matter intake (DMI) was recorded daily, average daily gain (ADG) was recorded weekly, and variability in ADG was calculated from the standard deviation of ADG. Feeding, unrewarded behavior (time at feed bunk without feed present), and competitive behavior were recorded using time-lapse video. Feeding and unrewarded behavior were measured for the last 7 d of each period, whereas competitive behavior was recorded on d 16, 18, and 20 of each period. Lying time was recorded for the last 7 d of each period. A tendency for interaction between feed bunk space and frequency of feed delivery on the feed efficiency of limit-fed dairy heifers was noted. Heifers provided restricted bunk space were reported as being less efficient when fed 2 ×/d; however, no other interactions were found. Although DMI and variability in ADG were similar between treatments, ADG was higher (1.0 vs. 0.9 kg/d) when heifers were provided with 0.40 m of feed bunk space and tended to be higher when fed 1 ×/d compared with that of heifers given restricted bunk space or fed 2 ×/d. Heifers fed 1 ×/d spent more time feeding throughout the day (70.5 vs. 58.9 min/d) than heifers fed 2 ×/d. Heifers fed at a restricted bunk space or fed 1 ×/d were approximately 25% more variable in feeding time than heifers fed 2 ×/d or with adequate bunk space. Heifers spent a similar amount of time in unrewarded visits to the feed bunk (28.9 min/d). Although feed bunk space did not affect competition (3.6 displacements/d), heifers fed 1 ×/d were displaced twice as frequently than heifers fed 2 ×/d. Regardless of treatment, heifers spent a similar amount of time lying down and standing without eating. Overall, providing sufficient feed bunk space to allow all limit-fed heifers to feed simultaneously improves feed efficiency and ADG and reduces variability in feeding time. Additionally, although delivering feed 1 ×/d resulted in increased competition, it also enabled heifers to gain adequate weight and spend more time feeding each day.

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