UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Competition at the feed bunk during transition changes the feeding, standing and social behaviour of Holstein dairy cows Proudfoot, Kathryn Louise


Transition dairy cows are vulnerable to negative consequences of depressed feed intake due to a transient state of negative energy balance that predisposes them to disease after calving. Competition has been identified as one factor that can decrease feeding activity in mid-lactation cows, but the effects of competition on the transition cow are less well understood. The objective of this study was to test the effect of a competition on the behaviour and feed intake of transition cows. Standing behaviour, feeding behaviour and dry matter intake (DMI) was monitored from 1 wk before to 2 wk after calving for 110 Holstein dairy cows. Social behaviour was recorded in the week before calving. Cows were assigned to a competitive (2:1 cows:bin) or non-competitive (1:1 cow:bin) treatment at the start of the study. Treatment groups were balanced for parity and baseline feeding data, resulting in 8 primiparous and 10 multiparous cows per treatment. Competition dramatically increased the number of agonistic behaviours between cows at the feeder. Primiparous cows showed no change in either feeding or standing behaviour when fed in a competitive environment; however, they increased their total meal duration and within-meal intervals in the wk -1 before and wk +1 after calving. In wk -1 before calving, competitively fed multiparous cows increased the frequency of visits to the feeder but consumed less feed at each visit, resulting in decreased daily DMI. Throughout the experiment, multiparous cows fed competitively spent less time eating at each visit and ate at a faster rate, particularly during the 2 wk after calving. Multiparous cows on the competitive treatment also increased the time they spent standing (without eating) compared to cows on the non-competitive treatment. Feeding rate was negatively correlated with social status in multiparous cows. In summary, the results of this study indicate that restricting access to the feeder increases agonistic behaviours regardless of parity, and cows of different parity and social status respond differently in terms of feeding and standing behaviour.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International