Feeding management and characteristics of rations for high-producing dairy cows in freestall herds

M. I. Endres, L. A. Espejo

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22 Scopus citations


The objectives of this cross-sectional observational study were to 1) describe the feeding management and characteristics of rations for high-producing Holstein cows housed in freestall barns in Minnesota, 2) evaluate ration change over time, and 3) investigate herd-level risk factors for ration change. Each of 50 randomly selected freestall dairy herds was visited once during the study. Samples of TMR were collected from the high-production group feed bunk to represent the initial ration as delivered to the cows, 3 additional samples were collected every 2 to 3. h after feed delivery, and the accumulated orts were cleaned out of the feed bunk. Feeding management practices and TMR formulation were also collected at the time of visit. Seventy percent of herds fed once daily, 22% fed twice daily, and 8% fed 3 times daily. Frequency of feed push-up was 5.4 ± 2.3 times daily. Linear feed bunk space per cow was 0.45±0.11 m. Sixty-two percent of the farms had 3-row pens and 38% had 2-row pens. Linear feed bunk space per cow was greater in 2-row pens (0.56 m/cow) than in 3-row pens (0.39 m/cow). Post and rail was the most common type of feed barrier; it was used by 60% of the herds. Headlocks were used by 28% of the herds, combination of post and rail with headlocks was used by 8%, and diagonal bars were used by 4%. Water trough linear space was 4.6±2.1 cm/cow. Estimated dry matter intake was 24.3 kg/cow per day. The forage content of the formulated ration was 52% of the ration DM, and corn silage was the most commonly used forage. The NDF content of the analyzed ration was greater than the NDF content of the formulated ration (30.6 and 29.8%, respectively). In contrast, the CP content was lower (17.5 and 17.9%, respectively). Some feeding management practices (e.g., feeding frequency) were associated with ration NDF content change over time. This association may be minimized by implementing ration and management changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-829
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Feeding management
  • Particle size
  • Ration characteristic


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