Altered Feeding Behavior Occurs in Both Primiparous and Multiparous Holsteins During the Periparturient Period

Posted: September 6, 2004

Strategies that increase feeding time during this critical period may be useful in increasing DMI.

An interesting paper was presented this year at the American Dairy Science Association meeting in St. Louis. The experiment was conducted at Oregon State University by M. DeGroot and P. French. The objectives were to describe changes in feeding behavior during the periparturient period. Twenty-four multiparous and 18 primiparous Holstein cows were group housed and fed individually via CalanĀ® doors for the three weeks before and after parturition. Behind each door was a feed tub that rested on a digital scale. Scales were connected to a computer that collected date, time, and tub weight during feeding bouts.

Prepartum 21 days
1 day
Total daily mealtime, min/d 227 130
Meal duration, min/d 31 18
DMI, kg/d 14 9
Meal DMI, kg/meal 1.93 1.21
Age Primiparous Multiparous
Total daily mealtime, min/d 213 187
Meal duration, min/d 27.2 24.2
Feeding rate, g DM/min 66.6 95.1
Postpartum Day of
21 days
Total daily mealtime, min/d 98 251
Meal duration, min/d 15 29
DMI, kg/d 8.6 17.7
DMI/meal, kg/meal 1.29 2.15
Feeding rate, g DM/min 112.4 85.5

Results show that the depression in DMI that occurs around the time of parturition coincides with a decrease in feeding time. Therefore, strategies that increase feeding time during this critical period may be useful in increasing DMI. This study demonstrates that one of these strategies would be to provide adequate bunk space to all cows prior to calving. While another strategy would be to separate first calving heifers from older cows as their eating patterns are quite different and they not only may need more time at the bunk but more space as well.

Gabriella A. Varga
Dairy and Animal Science Extension