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Effect of parity and stage of lactation on feed sorting behavior of lactating dairy cows

DeVries, T.J., Holtshausen, L., Oba, M., Beauchemin, K.A. (2011). Effect of parity and stage of lactation on feed sorting behavior of lactating dairy cows, 94(8), 4039-4045.


The objectives of this study were to determine if feed sorting differs between primiparous (PP) and multiparous (MP) cows, if sorting changes from the period of peak lactation to peak dry matter intake (DMI), and whether feed sorting affects efficiency of production. Data on DMI, milk production, feed sorting (particle size of offered and refused feed), and energy status (plasma nonesterified fatty acid, β-hydroxybutyrate, insulin and glucose concentration) were collected on 30 PP and 30 MP lactating Holstein dairy cows, individually housed and fed in tie-stalls, during 3 wk (wk 2, 6, and 10) over 10 wk of a lactation study. Cows averaged 53, 81, and 109. ±. 10 d in milk (DIM) at the beginning of each of the 3 recording weeks. To determine sorting, feed samples were separated with a particle separator that had 3 screens (19, 8, and 1.18 mm) and a bottom pan, resulting in 4 fractions (long, medium, short, fine). Over the study period, MP cows consumed more DM and produced more milk than did the PP cows, but had similar efficiency of production (kg of milk/kg of DMI), and similar levels of plasma indicators of energy status. Across the study period, DMI increased, whereas milk yield decreased, resulting in decreased efficiency of milk production as cows moved further into lactation. All cows had higher nonesterified fatty acid and lower insulin concentrations in plasma at 53 DIM compared with at 81 and 109 DIM, suggesting they were mobilizing more body fat at that earlier stage of lactation. Across periods, all cows sorted against the longest ration particles, did not sort the medium ration particles, and sorted for fine ration particles; as a result, all cows consumed less neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and physically effective NDF (proportion of NDF retained on the 19- and 8-mm screens of the particle separator) than predicted. Greater selection against the longest ration particles was associated with greater efficiency of milk production; however, this sorting pattern also tended to be associated with lower milk fat percentage. The extent of the observed sorting against the longest, physically effective ration particles and for the finest ration particles was greater for PP cows than for MP cows across all 3 observation periods. Feed sorting remained consistent in cows across the DIM evaluated in this study and that this sorting behavior can affect the efficiency of milk production as well as milk fat percentage. Further, PP cows engage in more sorting of their ration than MP cows. © 2011 American Dairy Science Association.

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