Suitability of feeding and chewing time for estimation of feed intake in dairy cows

C Pahl, E Hartung, A Grothmann, K Mahlkow-Nerge, A Haeussermann
Animal 2016, 10 (9): 1507-12
Monitoring of feeding and rumination behaviour can provide useful information for dairy herd management. The feeding behaviour of dairy cows can be recorded by different techniques, such as video cameras, weighing troughs or chewing sensors. Among feeding characteristics, individual feed intake of cows is of utmost interest, but as weighing troughs have high space and cost requirements they are used primarily in research studies. The objective of the present study was to evaluate whether records on feeding time or chewing activity or a combination of both contain enough information to estimate feed intake with sufficient accuracy. Feed intake and feeding time per cow were recorded by means of weighing troughs. Concurrently, chewing activity of seven cows was recorded by MSR-ART pressure sensors during five to eight measuring days per cow. Feeding and chewing behaviour were evaluated in time slots (1 min) and additionally assigned to feeding bouts for further analysis. The 1 min time slots were classified into feeding/no feeding or chewing/no chewing by the two systems, and agreement was found in 92.2% of the records. On average, cows spent 270±39 min/day at the feeding troughs and chewed 262±48 min/day. The average fresh matter intake (FMI) was 49.6±5.1 kg/day. Feed intake was divided into 9.7 bouts/day during which cows fed in average 27.8±21.7 min/bout and chewed 27.0±23.1 min/bout. The correlation between FMI and feeding time was r=0.891 and between FMI and chewing time r=0.780 overall cows. Hence, both systems delivered suitable information for estimating feed intake.

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