Method of feed delivery can affect the growth and feed efficiency of young heifers transitioning to a higher-forage diet, according to research from Purdue University. During the study, researchers fed a diet consisting of 40 percent forage and 60 percent grain mix (dry matter basis) to 90 heifers that were about 136 days of age. The feed delivery methods were: 1) a hay feeder and grain bunk, 2) forage and grain fed side-by-side in a bunk, or 3) a total mixed ration. The study took place over a 28-day period. Graduate student Tana Dennis reported the group’s findings in March at the American Dairy Science Association Midwest meeting. Here are some key results:

  • Delivery method tended to affect daily weight gain. For example, heifers fed using a hay feeder gained 2.29 pounds per day compared to 1.94 pounds per day for TMR-fed heifers.
  • Average dry-matter intake also was similar between delivery methods. However, at the end of the study, dry-matter intake was lowest for heifers fed forage and grain side-by-side and highest for heifers fed with a hay feeder and grain bunk and heifers fed a TMR.
  • Overall feed efficiency improved for heifers on the hay feeder/grain bunk treatment and heifers fed forage and grain side-by-side, compared to TMR-fed heifers.

The researchers concluded that component-fed diets improved feed efficiency compared to a TMR when growing heifers are being transitioned to a higher-forage diet. Learn more about feed delivery and nutritional guidelines for post-weaned heifers in the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association’s Gold Standards I, Gold Standards II and Gold Standards III.