Dairy cows are often overstocked. Some farm managers are now also using ‘slick bunk’ management (feeding to zero refusals) to save on feed costs, but this practice can reduce the time that cows have access to feed. Both practices may increase competition and affect feeding behavior in dairy cows.
A recent study published in the November Journal of Dairy Science by researchers with the University of British Columbia's Animal Welfare Program tested the effects of overstocking at the feed bunk and restricting feed access time on the behavior of lactating Holstein cows.
They found that overstocking and reduced feed access time increased competitive behavior at the feed bunk and reduced the time that cows were able to spend feeding. These behavioral responses were greatest when the effects of overstocking and reduced access time were combined. For instance, results show that restricting time access to feed in conjunction with overstocking resulted in cows consuming a third of their daily dry matter intake in the two hours after feed was delivered but that this practice also coincided with five times as many displacements during this period.