Adequate feed bunk space for heifers is important in any group-housed heifer facility, and even more so when managing heifers in a precision-feeding system.
Jud Heinrichs, dairy science professor at Penn State University, recommends allowing heifers 14 to 24 inches of bunk space in a precision-feeding program as they progress from four months of age to pre-calving or 22 months of age.
However, there are situations when feed bunk space can become an issue in a precision-feeding program, such as when heifers are fed 30 to 40 percent concentrate diets and feed access is limited to six to eight hours per day.
"Overly aggressive and timid heifers are very susceptible to over- or under-nutrition when feed bunk space is limited," Heinrichs says.
He says there are two strategies that can be used when feed bunk space is limited. The first is to simply group animals with peers of similar body weight. The second strategy is to limit heifers from moving about freely at the feed bunk. Headlocks or closely placed divider posts can help with this.
Feeding twice daily is not recommended in a precision-feeding program as this can increase heifer competition and weight gain variability within a pen.
"Use common sense to see if all heifers are satisfied and are growing uniformly when using these feeding systems," Heinrichs says.
For more information, read "Precision-Feeding Dairy Heifers" at DAIReXNET.