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The effects of feeding management and feed area design on dairy cattle behavior DeVries, Trevor James

Abstract

There has been little in-depth research on measures of feeding behavior [i.e feeding behaviour] in dairy cattle and how management and housing influence these measures. Thus, the first study of this dissertation determined which objective measures of feeding behavior are most repeatable and sensitive to treatment differences. The remaining studies focussed [i.e. focused] on assessing how management and design of the feeding area affect the behavior of group-housed dairy cows. To determine which management practice has the greatest effect on stimulating cows to feed, two management practices, feed delivery and milking, were separated and changes in feeding behavior were monitored. The results indicated that the daily feeding pattern of group-housed dairy cows is primarily influenced by the timing of feed delivery. A follow-up study investigated the effects of changing the frequency of feed delivery on the behavior of lactating dairy cows. More frequent delivery of feed improved access to feed for all cows, particularly during peak feeding periods, and reduced the degree of feed sorting, which in turn could reduce the between-cow variation in the composition of feed consumed. The last two experiments determined the effects of feed area design on dairy cattle behavior. Changes in behavior were monitored when cows were provided with more feed bunk space than typically provided. Increased bunk space resulted in more space between cows and fewer aggressive interactions while feeding, allowing cows, especially subordinate ones, to increase their feeding activity. The final study of this dissertation determined if the addition of partitions (feed stalls) between adjacent cows would further limit competition at the feed bunk. The addition of feed stalls resulted in a further reduction in aggressive interactions and a further increase in feeding time compared to providing extra bunk space. This research clearly demonstrates that the provision of increased bunk space, particularly when combined with feed stalls, improves access to feed and reduces competition at the feed bunk, particularly for subordinate cows. These findings provide insight into how one can manage and design the feeding environment to increase access to feed, reduce competition at the feed bunk, and reduce the between-cow variation in the composition of feed consumed.

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