In addition to access to feed, some consideration must also be given to another, typically forgotten nutrient: water. Water is perhaps the most necessary nutrient (NRC, 2001), yet its quality and availability is often overlooked. Interestingly, in a recent field study of free-stall herds in Eastern Ontario, Sova et al. (2013) found that that milk yield tended to increase by 0.77 kg/d for every 2 cm/cow increase in water trough space available on the study herds. This result illustrates the importance of water availability for group housed cows and provides further evidence that resource availability has the potential to greatly impact productivity.
This proceedings chapter summarizes a number of studies that have been undertaken that collectively provide us with a basic understanding of how feeding management influences dairy cattle behaviour, health, welfare, productivity, and efficiency. In particular, using knowledge of feeding behaviour, particularly how, when, and what cows eat of the feed provided to them, we can evaluate feeding management strategies. Strategies may then be implemented that allow cattle to have good access to the feed provided to them, and consume it in manner which is conducive to good health, productivity, efficiency, welfare, and longevity. Examples of this include frequent delivery of feed close to the time of milking, frequent feed push-up, and ensuring cows have sufficient space at the feed bunk and water trough.
This paper is an updated version of a proceedings paper written for, and presented at, the 2013 Western Canadian Dairy Seminar held in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada in March 2013. Much of the research presented in this manuscript was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Dairy Commission, the Canadian Bovine Mastitis Research Network, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, and the Ontario Research Fund, Westgen Endowment Fund, Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia, the University of Guelph, and the University of British Columbia Animal Welfare Program.
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