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Short communication: Grazing pattern of dairy cows that were selected for divergent residual feed intake as calves

Gregorini, P., Waghorn, G.C., Kuhn-Sherlock, B., Romera, A.J., Macdonald, K.A.
Journal of dairy science 2015 v.98 no.9 pp. 6486-6491
Holstein, Lolium perenne, body weight, calves, dairy cows, feces, feed intake, grazing, ingestion, mastication, milk, multivariate analysis, particle size distribution, pastures, rumination, sward, walking
The aim of this study was to investigate and assess differences in the grazing pattern of 2 groups of mature dairy cows selected as calves for divergent residual feed intake (RFI). Sixteen Holstein-Friesian cows (471±31kg of body weight, 100 d in milk), comprising 8 cows selected as calves (6–8 mo old) for low (most efficient: CSCLowRFI) and 8 cows selected as calves for high (least efficient: CSCHighRFI) RFI, were used for the purpose of this study. Cows (n=16) were managed as a single group, and strip-grazed (24-h pasture allocation at 0800h) a perennial ryegrass sward for 31 d, with measurements taken during the last 21 d. All cows were equipped with motion sensors for the duration of the study, and jaw movements were measured for three 24-h periods during 3 random nonconsecutive days. Measurements included number of steps and jaw movements during grazing and rumination, plus fecal particle size distribution. Jaw movements were analyzed to identify bites, mastication (oral processing of ingesta) during grazing bouts, chewing during rumination, and to calculate grazing and rumination times for 24-h periods. Grazing and walking behavior were also analyzed in relation to the first meal of the day after the new pasture was allocated. Measured variables were subjected to multivariate analysis. Cows selected for low RFI as calves appeared to (a) prioritize grazing and rumination over idling; (b) take fewer steps, but with a higher proportion of grazing steps at the expense of nongrazing steps; and (c) increase the duration of the first meal and commenced their second meal earlier than CSCHighRFI. The CSCLowRFI had fewer jaw movements during eating (39,820 vs. 45,118 for CSCLowRFI and CSCHighRFI, respectively), more intense rumination (i.e., 5 more chews per bolus), and their feces had 30% less large particles than CSCHighRFI. These results suggest that CSCLowRFI concentrate their grazing activity to the time when fresh pasture is allocated, and graze more efficiently by walking and masticating less, hence they are more efficient grazers than CSCHighRFI.