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Feed intake and behavior of dairy goats when offered an elevated feed bunk
- Neave, Heather W., von Keyserlingk, Marina A.G., Weary, Daniel M., Zobel, Gosia
- Journal of dairy science 2018 v.101 no.4 pp. 3303-3310
- Saanen, alfalfa silage, commercial farms, dairy goats, feed intake, feed troughs, foraging, head, neck, vegetation, wood shavings
- Goats are browsers and select vegetation at various heights when foraging. On commercial farms, dairy goats are typically fed from low-level feed bunks. The objective of this study was to determine how feed intake and feeding behavior vary when goats are offered feed at variable heights, with the potential of evaluating the benefits of offering an elevated feeder to dairy goats. Thirteen Saanen X dairy goats were housed in a home pen with a lying area of wood shavings, where they were pre-exposed for 24 d to 3 feeder heights designed to result in differences in head height while feeding: floor level (head lowered relative to body), head level (head level relative to body), and elevated level (head and neck angled upward). Nine groups of 3 goats each were randomly selected and housed for 24 h in a test pen identical to the home pen except that it contained 1 of each of the 3 feeder heights. Each feeder contained ad libitum chopped alfalfa silage and a top-dressed corn-based supplement, refreshed twice daily. Refusals from inside and under each feeder were weighed to calculate intake. Feed intake increased with increasing feeder height (mean ± SE; 0.18, 0.29, and 0.34 ± 0.04 kg of DM/goat for floor-level, head-level, and elevated-level feeders, respectively). Total feeding time did not vary with feeder height, but feeding rate tended to be faster at the elevated-level feeder (14.5 ± 2.1 g of DM/min) compared with head-level (9.2 ± 2.3 g of DM/min) and floor-level (8.9 ± 2.1 g of DM/min) feeders. Goats visited the floor-level feeder (36.4 ± 8.4 visits/goat) less than the head-level (79.4 ± 8.4 visits/goat) and elevated-level (74.8 ± 8.4 visits/goat) feeders. The number of displacements per minute of feeding time (physical removal of another goat from the feeding place) was greater at the elevated-level feeder (0.46 ± 0.06 displacements/min) compared with the floor-level feeder (0.23 ± 0.06 displacements/min) and tended to differ from the head-level feeder (0.27 ± 0.06 displacements/min). We conclude that goats eat more from an elevated feeder and compete more to access this feeder.