Feeding behavior in dairy cows seems to harbor great importance when it comes to improving production parameters. Improving feed efficiency in dairy cattle is important not only for optimizing production costs, but also due to a growing need to reduce waste associated with animal production (e.g. manure and methane) and its impact on the environment.
|Feeding behavior has a two-way association with animal welfare. Some problems related to animal welfare, such as health deterioration or pain, cause changes in eating behavior. On the other hand, changes in eating behavior can lead to health problems. (Figure 1)|
Figure 1. Summary of the two-way relationship between feeding behaviour and animal welfare in dairy cattle, including drivers of feeding behaviour and impact on productivity
Modified from Llonch et al., 2018
Drivers of livestock feeding behavior
Feeding is a predominant behavior in ruminants with animals spending a great part of the day eating. A high-production Holstein cow can eat more than 25 kg of dry matter in a day.
The average time spent feeding can be up to 12 hours, distributed over various feeding events or “meals” which are separated by longer periods of time than the feeding events. (Von Keyserlingk and Weary, 2010).
Feeding motivation in ruminants is influenced by internal and external factors. External factors include sensory characteristics of food and are considered an incentive that influences eating behavior (Ginane et al., 2015). Internal factors, such as physiological and metabolic responses, can be enhanced by positive sensory stimulation or food palatability.
Palatability has a great influence on ruminants’ feeding behavior, due to the fact that the sense of taste is highly developed in cattle (Albrigth, 1993).
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