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Competition at the feed bunk changes the feeding, standing, and social behavior of transition dairy cows

Proudfoot, K.L., Veira, D.M., Weary, D.M., von Keyserlingk, M.A.G.
Journal of dairy science 2009 v.92 no.7 pp. 3116-3123
animal behavior, dairy cows, feeding behavior, parity (reproduction), feed intake, dry matter intake, Holstein, feed troughs, postpartum interval
Transition dairy cows are vulnerable to the negative consequences of depressed feed intake around calving. Competition can decrease feeding activity in midlactation cows, but the effects of competition on the transition cow are not well understood. The objective was to test the effect of competition on the behavior and feed intake of transition cows. Standing behavior, feeding behavior, and dry matter intake were monitored from 1 wk before to 2 wk after calving for 36 Holstein dairy cows. Displacements at the feed bins were recorded the week before calving. Cows were assigned to either competitive (2:1 cows:feed bin) or noncompetitive (1:1 cow:feed bin) treatments. Treatment groups were balanced for parity and baseline feeding measures, resulting in 8 primiparous and 10 multiparous cows per treatment. Competition increased the number of displacements at the feed bins for both primiparous and multiparous cows. Primiparous cows had no change in feed intake or standing time when fed in a competitive environment, but did increase the time spent for each meal during the week before calving (28 ± 1.5 vs. 24 ± 1.5 min/meal). In the week before and after calving, competitively fed multiparous cows had a lower feeding time per visit than noncompetitively fed cows (4.2 ± 0.5 vs. 5.8 ± 0.5 kg/visit and 5.3 ± 0.7 vs. 7.0 ± 0.7 kg/visit, respectively). Multiparous cows ate at a faster rate 2 wk after calving (142 ± 11 vs. 105 ± 11 g/min). Multiparous cows in the competitive treatment increased the time they spent standing (without eating) during the week after calving compared with cows in the noncompetitive treatment (820 ± 44 vs. 649 ± 44 min/d). Feeding rate was correlated with a displacement index in multiparous cows, whereby cows with lower displacement indices ate more rapidly. Results indicate that restricting access to feed increases displacements regardless of parity, and alters the feeding and standing behavior of primiparous and multiparous cows differently.