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 – the first 90 minutes after the mixer waggon has passed is when dominant behaviour is most commonly seen
• Heifers are wary – heifers tend to eat little and often. They will generally visit the feed fence after more dominant cows have finished feeding - ensuring enough ration is available for stragglers 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 around 60cm (2 feet) from the brisket board 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