Do your cows have enough access to feed?

Feed access is critical to maximising herd productivity. Cows spend around five hours each day feeding, so ensuring feed availability throughout the day is key. Take our 'Mind the feed gap' challenge today and find out whether your herd could be missing out.

How do cows’ feeding habits vary?
Cow behaviour around the feed rail can vary farm by farm, but some patterns are common: dominant cows eat first whereas heifers tend to eat little and often.  They will generally visit the feed fence after more dominant cows have finished feeding, so ensuring enough ration is available for lower ranking cows should be a major focus

How can I tell if my cows have enough access to feed?
Measure the distance – a typical Holstein can reach up to 60cm from the feed fence to the available feed.  This figure is often less for freshly calved heifers
•    Observe the routine – bullying behaviour at the feed rail is a strong indicator that feed access may be an issue.  This can lead to scarcity of feed available for lower ranking cows
•    Carry out a cleanliness check – if you struggle to make time for observing behaviour at the feed fence, then cleanliness scoring can be a good indicator of bullying behaviour

The 'Mind the feed gap' challenge!

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How does the 'Mind the feed gap' challenge work?

At Lely, our mission is to help ensure sustainable, enjoyable farming for generations to come.  We believe that all cows should be free to reach their full genetic potential.  Maximising milk yield and farm profitability is key to this.  That’s why we invite you to take the Mind the Gap! Challenge.
Ensure your entire herd is getting access to their ration with these simple steps:
1.    Observe behaviour after the mixer wagon has passed.  In the first 90 minutes – 
a.    What proportion of cows can make the feed fence?  
b.    How many are standing/queuing?
c.    How much bullying can you see amongst the herd? 
2.    After 90 minutes, use the Lely tape measure to check the gap between the base of the feed fence and your ration mix (this is when bullying tends to subside and the shier cows can get to the feed fence).  
3.    How big is the gap?  Remember, a mature Holstein will typically reach around 60 centimetres  (2 feet)
4.    Mesaure the gap again half way between feedings.  How big is the gap now?  
5.    Observe the herd – cleanliness scoring is a good guide to bullying behaviour
6.    Think about staff – has the feed been pushed up?  What quantity of fuel and how much labour time was required?
7.    Take a final measurement just before the next pass of the mixer wagon – remember, cows prefer to eat around five times per day

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