Technology: Frequent feedings boost nutrition management
By Ben Smink
Nutrition management is as important as the composition to ensure cow health, feed efficiency and productivity.
Frequent feedings result in increased forage intake, more peace in the herd, higher milk production and a positive effect on the cow’s health.
Cows are “nose eaters,” so they are attracted to forage by scent and sight. To stimulate a cow’s milk yield, their feed must be fresh, high quality and sufficiently available. Labor is often a limiting factor in making fresh feed available to cows around the clock. However thanks to modern technology, this problem can be a thing of the past.
The constant delivery of well-mixed, fresh feed encourages cows to consume more and provides more opportunities for low-ranking animals to eat. For many producers, however, it is difficult to pull away from the various farm chores to feed cows their natural consumption of 8 to 12 meals per day.
Automatic feeding with modern technologies relieve this daily stress with 24-hour operation. This stimulates extra cow traffic, especially at night when feed is normally not pushed up to the fence. This results in higher dry matter intake (+3.5%), less waste-feed and gives an equal quality ration day and night.
Impact of feeding management
“The delivery of fresh feed is an important factor in stimulating cows to eat,” according to Dr. Trevor DeVries, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Kemptville Campus. “Thus, increasing the frequency of feed delivery can greatly influence feeding behavior patterns and also affect cow health and productivity.”
There’s a significant peak in feeding activity immediately after feed delivery for cows offered feed only once daily compared to feeding twice per day or more often, explained DeVries, who addressed the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar in March 2013. This could result in slug feeding and predispose cows to sub-acute rumen acidosis (SARA), due to large diurnal fluctuations in ruminal pH.
“On the other hand, cows fed more frequently (four and five times daily) tend to consume feed more evenly after each feed delivery, increasing their feeding time throughout the day,” he said. “In addition, subordinate cows were not displaced as frequently when fed more often, indicating these cows would have greater access to feed, and particularly fresh feed, when delivery frequency is high.”
Providing feed twice per day or more has also shown to reduce the amount of feed sorting, contributing to more consistent nutrient intakes throughout day. Consistent rumen pH results, which likely contributes to improved milk fat; fiber digestibility and, possibly, production efficiency.
In a recent study of freestall, parlor-milked herds in Eastern Ontario, DeVries’ research group found feeding TMR twice per day versus once per day was associated with 2.0 kg per day more milk per cow.
Meet Cinnamon Ridge Dairy
For more than six generations, the Maxwell family, including brothers John and Edwin, and John’s daughters, Amy and Kara, has been farming in Donahue, Iowa. Adoption of modern technology has followed – and led – the dairy’s growth. Expanding to 260 Jerseys in the past year, milking and feeding robotics have elevated Cinnamon Ridge to the seventh highest producing Jersey herd in the U.S.
“It is our goal to be No. 1 in milk for Jerseys,” said John. “We think automation is one of the ingredients for that recipe.”
The automatic feeder not only ensures constant feed availability for their herd without the need for additional labor, but also saves Cinnamon Ridge valuable time. Based on three 10-minute feed rounds each day, the automatic feed pusher saves at least 183 hours, or 22 (eight-hour) working days a year.
That extra time provides flexibility and freedom to devote energy to other tasks, such as the Maxwells’ 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans, beef cow and embryo operations, a 10,000-head swine facility, poultry egg production, and a country store and tours, which exceeded 3,000 visitors last year. The Maxwells recently incorporated a restaurant and event center in their operation.
“We hope to make the event center available to the public for events like wedding receptions and wine and cheese parties,” said John. “It is very important that we all promote and educate the public about the dairy industry and that includes robotics.”
• Ben Smink is Farm Management Support for Lely North America. Contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Cinnamon Ridge Dairy’s adaptation of technology was featured in a World Dairy Expo Virtual Farm Tour, Oct. 3. If you missed it, you can view a video at www.worlddairyexpo.com/pages/Seminars-and-Tours.php. Or, visit the Cinnamon Ridge website at www.TourMyFarm.com.