No one likes a bully, and especially if you have to stand next to one while eating. That was the conclusion of a research study reported in the July Journal of Dairy Science.
Researchers from the United Kingdom and Canada trained dairy cattle to prefer a highly palatable feed consisting of a pelleted grain containing molasses rather than a low palatability feed comprised of rolled barley and soybean meal. Next, they gave the cows a choice between the two feeds. The catch, though, was the highly palatable feed came with a dominant cow while the low palatability feed could be eaten alone.
If cows had only 12 to 18 inches of bunk space, they chose to eat the less-palatable feed alone rather than get bullied by a dominant cow. However, even when they had enough space (24 to 30 inches), some of the subordinate cows still avoided the more-palatable feed because it meant being in close contact with dominant cows.
The researchers conclude that feeding space should be at least 2 feet per cow whenever possible.