Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

Behaviour of dairy cows with self-feeding at a silo

Self-feeding at a horizontal silo adjacent to the exercise yard is a labour-saving alternative in winter feeding. In an experiment with forty dairy cows divided into two groups, the impact of the animal/feeding place ratio (1,5:1, 2:1 and 2,5:1) on social and feeding behaviour of the cows was investigated. We also varied the distance between the feed barrier and the silage heap in the silo to improve the feeding place design. The two cow groups kept in a cubicle system were alternately fed at the self-feeding silo or indoors at the feeding table by a feed mixer wagon (grass and maize silage, sugar beet pulp). Additional hay was provided at the feeding table. The animal/ feeding place ratio did not have a significant influence on the time the cows spent at the silo feed barrier. However, displacements at the silo feed barrier were more frequent with increasing animal/feeding place ratio. The shorter the distance between feed barrier and silage heap, the less often the cows pushed forcefully into the rack. A distance of 40 to 45Ê cm on ground level seemed to be ideal. Smaller distances resulted in higher feed losses and an uneven surface of the silage heap. An examination of the cows on five farms showed that lesions may occur on the shoulder joints if the silo feed barrier is not designed appropriately.

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