The feeding behavior of group-housed dairy cows is influenced by management practices at the feed bunk and factors associated with the physical and social environment. The feeding pattern of group-housed dairy cows is largely influenced by the timing of fresh feed delivery, and the delivery of fresh feed has a greater impact on stimulating cows to eat than does the return from milking.
Delivering fresh feed more frequently improves access to fresh feed for all cows and reduces sorting of the TMR. This potentially will reduce variations in diet quality consumed by cows, with benefits for milk production. The combination of limited bunk space (less than 1.5 feet per cow) and time to access feed (less than 16 to 20 hours per day) is worse than either situation alone.
Waste comes in many forms, visible and invisible. The portion of feed discarded due to mold or that remains on the ground after loading or in the pen after feeding is easy to see. Quantifying when ingredients are under- or overfed to a group of cattle, or the losses to birds and other wildlife, sorted mixed diets and social order in the pen is more difficult. Applying these techniques can help dairy managers provide the right feed to the right cows at the right time in the right place at the right price.