JOURNAL ARTICLE

Performance and feeding behavior of primiparous cows loose housed alone or together with multiparous cows

A Bach, C Iglesias, M Devant, N Ràfols
Journal of Dairy Science 2006, 89 (1): 337-42
16357298
Lactating Holstein cows (52 multiparous and 90 primiparous) were monitored over a period of 10 mo to observe effects of grouping primiparous cows (PPC) separately from multiparous cows (MPC) on performance, feeding behavior, feed intake, feed efficiency, and milk production of PPC. Cows were kept in 2 symmetrical pens each equipped with a robotic milking unit, 2 waterers, and 28 feeding spaces. Typically, 100 lactating cows were present at a time, thereby ensuring 1.78 cows per feeding place in each pen. One pen (PP) was composed exclusively of PPC whereas the other pen (PM) included 30% PPC and 70% MPC. Primiparous cows were evenly distributed to each pen by days in milk and daily milk production. As they calved, additional primiparous cows were assigned sequentially to each of the 2 treatment groups; multiparous cows calving during the study were allocated to the PM group. Both PP and PM groups were managed equally and were fed the same basal ration twice daily plus 3 kg/d of concentrate during milking. Individual eating behavior and feed consumption at each visit were monitored electronically. Milk production was recorded daily, and milk composition monthly. Observed arithmetic means and standard errors are presented but application to other management situations is limited because animals within pen were not independent. Total dry matter intake (18.7 vs. 18.1 +/- 0.9 kg/d) and milk production (25.9 vs. 25.6 +/- 0.8 kg/d) of PPC were similar in both the PM and PP groups, respectively. Primiparous cows in the PP group had numerically more visits to the robotic milking unit (3.26 vs. 2.68 +/- 0.15) and to the feed troughs (4.91 vs. 4.02 +/- 0.43), but apparently spent less time eating (2.72 vs. 3.22 +/- 0.1 h/d) than did PPC in the PM group. Differences in feed efficiency were low but PPC in the PP group had numerically higher feed efficiency at times through 200 d in milk. Alternative grouping strategies illustrate potentially important differential responses among primiparous cows that warrant further study.

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