Research Institute for Organic Agriculture, Frick

Feeding and rumination behaviour of dairy cows fed by varied feeding regimes

The effects of varying feeding regimes on chewing behaviour and faecal particle size distribution were investigated in an experiment with 23 lactating Swiss Fleckvieh cows. The herd was located at an organic dairy farm with a low concentrate feeding regime as required by the regulations of the organic association Bio Suisse. In a two factorial experiment we tested the complete omission of individually fed concentrates as well as the separate supply of the cows with hay (second cut) in the morning as opposed to complete TMR (total mixed ration) feeding. The omission of concentrates did not affect the above mentioned parameters. The sequential offer of roughages (second-cut hay and TMR) led to prolonged feeding activity during daytime and to shorter feeding activity combined with a tendency for longer rumination times during the night. Further, cows made significantly less changes between different activities when fed hay separately, in particular during the night. Faecal particle size distribution was barely affected by the experimental factors. The results show that feeding roughages in sequence leads to potentially positive effects: feeding time was longer during daytime, ruminating time tended to be longer during the night and activity changes occurred less frequently. Moreover, the applied chewing sensors proved to be suitable for the detection of feeding effects on cows’ behaviour.

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