If heifers are in a limit-feeding regime, they may benefit from the inclusion of straw alongside their limit-fed ration.

In an experiment reported in the February Journal of Dairy Science, researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada examined the behavioral and growth responses of dairy heifers when straw was provided with (either within or alongside) a limit-fed ration.

There has been much interest in limit-feeding of heifers. However, there are some behavioral concerns, since limit-feeding reduces feeding time and increases inactive standing time.

“With the inclusion of straw alongside a limit-fed ration, heifers are able to increase their feeding time (to a similar amount of time observed for heifers fed ad libitum), increase rumination, decrease inactive standing time, and maintain their average daily gain,” researchers note. The straw ends up helping the heifers to satisfy their natural foraging behavior, which helps improve the overall welfare status of the animals.