Feed Bunk Management and Contribution to Feed Safety in Dairy Cattle Farming

07 October 201913 min reading

The feeder management provides the amount of feed needed by cattle for high performance, allowing for profitable production. Many problems that are experienced today lie in the lack of attention to feed management. The feeder management practices are herd management application that affects cattle farms, revenue generation, and economic sustainability and profitability and contribute significantly to the feed safety.

Prof. Dr. Serap Göncü Cattle Breeding and Management Expert Cukurova University

INTRODUCTION Farm animals have to take all the nutrients they need for daily life and share of yield in the feed quantity constraints they can consume in one day. The feed consumption is shaped by factors of animal and feed and environmental factors. Factors such as weight, physiological status of the animal (lactation, pregnancy, etc.), yield, production level, lactation period, and body condition and rumen capacity are important factors for differences. The rate of coarse fodder/concentrate feed, fodder quality, moisture content, digestion level, particle size, feed processing, and feed chemical composition are factors that are linked to feed quality. Especially when using succulent feeds, feed consumption must be based on a principle. Additionally, it should be considered that cattle prefer to consume feed during sunshine and sunset, and around these times, there should be feed at feeder and animals should be kept around feeder. For this reason, the main principle of cattle feeding is that there has been continuous feed for 24 hours in front of the animal (Ballantine, 1998). At this approach, feed in the feeder are spoiled most of the time or animals are forced to consume the remaining feed. That’s why this approach increases the economic loss. In addition, a 2-4 hour disruption at feeding time increases the risk of metabolic problems in animals significantly (Milton, 1998). Additionally, the fact that excessive feed is placed in the feeder and having feed close to wet areas increases the risk of feed of soaking, molding, and spoiling. Even if the feed is completed consumed, it is required to know the behavioral pattern of animals and whether they are in search or whether they are hungry and to examine other feeding management in order to decide on feeding strategy. For this reason, it is suggested to decide on the strategy after tracking consumed feed amount and animals’ behaviors in the barn for three days and considering the remaining feed amount and feed’s content (Pritchard and Robbi, 1993). Feed safety is a prerequisite for food safety and human health as well as for animal health and welfare. Trade is an important component of the system with its impact on income generation and economic sustainability. In the past, mad cow, dioxin, mycotoxin, E. coli O157: H7 contamination and development of antimicrobial resistance have emerged in the animal nutrition, and that threatened people. The hazardous components can arise with source materials, the contamination of products during transportation, storage, and delivery or its transportation. FAO considers the animal feed and feed safety as 1) prerequisite for food safety and human health; 2) a requirement for animal health and welfare; and 3) defines it as a component of access to trade, income generation and economic sustainability of feed and livestock sectors. So, feed safety affects the economic sustainability of livestock companies and is affected by their economic sustainability. That is because feed input is decisive in economic sustainability as an important cost factor in livestock farms with a rate of 60-90 percent. The aim of this study is to summarize the effective feed bunk management topics on yield and profitability per animal at cattle farms and feed utilization.

GROUPING Having sample groups allows the healthy determination of the needs of the animals and healthy feeding. Businesses should categorize their cows in the best way based on their infrastructure (Coppock, 1977; Grant and Albright 2001). Large enterprises groups as follows: fresh cows, early lactation (high yield), medium lactation (medium yield), end of lactation (low yield), dry period (early dry, late dry). Based on milk level, animals in lactation are grouped as new mother and over 30 kilograms, 20-30 kilograms, and up to 20 kilograms. However, if the conditions are suitable, lactating cows can be grouped as high yielding (like >25-30 kg) and low yielding (like <20-25). While some farmers prefer lactation milk yield, another group may prefer the reproduction and arrange its grouping accordingly.

FEATURE OF FEEDER AND WATERER Feeder and the area and size of waterer should be appropriate to the nature of the animal. The calculation should be correct per animals for distance in which animals can go and find water and feed and have feeder and waterer. If there are differences between features such as queue before feeder or waterer, fights within groups, accumulation behavior before feeding, significant fluctuations in daily milk yield within the same group and feed consumption, then it means the distance is low or inefficient. In order to utilize from 1 kilogram of dry matters, it is required 2 liters water and 4 liters water under hot conditions (NRC, 2001).

FEED PREPARATION A very important point that increases feed costs in farms and rather overlooked is the losses that occur during feed storage and feed preparation (Tyson, 2012). For feed storages and their preparation in the enterprises, a specific unit must be planned at the initial stage. However, the selection and planning of this location should also take into account herd health bio-security, business expansion plans and feed distribution and operation mechanization possibilities. In addition, flexibility, economic status, ease of operation, dependence, simplicity, and safety are important in the planning of the feed preparation system. Feed preparation should be collected in one area. The feed, which is used in ration, storage and preparation either produced in the enterprise or purchased ensures the sustainability of planning in the use of equipment, the work duration, the work efficiency.

FEED WAGON OPERATION Feed wagons are agricultural machines that distribute silage and cut, mix and distribute according to the plane for each groups. Feed wagon provides an advantage when considering bad quality silage or the use of waste in enterprises that carry out cattle breeding in areas where the resources are limited. Dispersion control should be carried out with particle separator for mixture quality. According to the condition of the shearing knife, it is divided into 3 classes as horizontal, inclined, and vertical. It should be used at 75 percent occupancy in the feed wagon to prevent spillage and to allow efficient mixing. In the horizontal and vertical mixers, the order of addition of the raw materials in the TMR is different. The mixing time and the mixing sequence must be observed in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. After joining the final raw material, the manufacturing companies recommend 3-6 minutes. However, in practice 15-20 minute of mixing time is applied.

FEEDING FREQUENCY AND FEED REFRESHING Cows are animals that depend on their daily habits that want to do the same thing every day at the same time and in the same way. The basic of cattle feeding is that there has to be continuous feed in front of the animal for 24 hours (Ballantine, 1998). If there is low distance between feeder, silage is used in feeding, silage is bad quality or weather is hot, it is required to feed frequently. Studies have shown that milk fat drop caused by high concentrate feed can be reduced by increasing the feeding frequency from 2 to 6, especially in high concentrate feed rations. With the increase of meal time of dairy cows within a day, the feeding duration expanded in a day more evenly, and the number of round visits to the feed has decreased, and the number of meal does not affect the sleeping time in a day and the aggressive behavior in the feeder; based on these positive developments, all animals’ access to meal has gotten better (DeVries et al. 2005). It is reported that feeding more than 4 times a day does not make a statistical difference (Gibson, 2002). In addition, pushing the feed to the front of the animal (feed refresher) encourages feed consumption. Studies have shown that pushing the feed towards the animal several times a day leads the cows to come to the feeder more frequently and enables cows to consume continuous feed in smaller portions (Beaucheminand Buchanan-Smith 1989; Miller, 1998; Barmore, 2001; Shaver, 2001; Moon et al., 2012). It is generally reported that pushing feeds in front of animals 4-6 times a day encourages feed consumption (Barmore, 2001).

FEED BUNK SCORING The key issue in feed bunk scoring is the visual assessment of the amount of feed remaining in the feeder 24 hours after the feed is provided. The amount of feed remaining in the feeder may vary between 0-15 percent (Miller, 1998; Loy, 1999; Pritchard and Burns, 2003). However, the amount of feed remaining in the feed bunk is required to be between 2-4 percent of the previous feed (Loy, 1999; Pritchard and Burns, 2003; Hutjens, 1999). Therefore, if the amount of feed remaining in the feeder is more than 2-4 percent or if there is no feed left in the feeder, it indicates that regulation should be carried out. Once a week, the amount of feed remaining and the content of the remaining feed must be determined. Scoring takes into account not only the presence of feed in the feeder, but also the quality and characteristics of the feed; and the animal behavior, efficiency properties, feeder distance, and behavior before, after and during feeding are taken into account.

MANURE SCORING In order to have an idea on dairy cow’s rumen activities or its nutrition level, the system of manure scoring is used. In order to carry out evaluation of manure, animals’ bedding area and paddock should be examined and if necessary a photograph machine can be used for scoring. Particularly, new manures on the floor must be evaluated. In the Michigan system, fresh manure scoring is made based on consistency, the water content, fiber content, and feed type. In the scoring made out of 5 points, 3 is the ideal point (Hutjens, 1999). Manure scoring may vary depending on the lactation period of the cows.

RUMEN FILL SCORING The rumen fill is evaluated between 1 and 5 points. When viewed from the back, the level of rumen constitutes the criteria for scoring. Rumen fill, defined as the total amount of liquid and DM (kg) in the rumen, is related to DMI ration composition, digestibility, and the rate of passage of ingested feed. The skin under the lumbar vertebrae curves is evaluated. If deep lumbar vertebrae curves are deeper than the width of a hand behind the rib, the cow has eaten less or has not eaten. It is a marked disease or very bad feed expression in the cow. If this area is visible especially after calving, a lumbar vertebrae curves is deeper than the width of a hand behind the rib or a triangle can be seen, lack of nutrition and unstable ration can be considered. If rumen fill score is 3 points, that is accepted as the ideal score for milking cows, and in this case lumbar vertebrae curves of the cow is visible as convex and felt hard when pressed by hand. In the final stage of lactation and in the case of dry cows, which is frequently seen as 4 points, there is a level of rumen fill that cannot be noticed. As a rumen score is just a snapshot, it is best to score animals at different times of the day to get a good overall impression of their rumen fill. Specific animals with low rumen scores should be monitored more closely, while high variation within the herd requires diagnosis and eliminating the causes. If the overall score is too low or too high, feed intake and composition should be monitored.

RUMEN MOVEMENTS The stomachs of the cattle have four sections and the rumen walls have a very strong muscle structure and more than 2/3 of the total content of the digestive tract is found in the rumen. The pH of the rumen content should be 5.5-7.0 and the temperature should be between 39-40° C. This environment is the ideal medium for the growth of microorganisms. The feed will remain in the rumen for 20-48 hours. This period is half of the total passage time (40-72 hours) of the feed through the digestive tract. It takes about 50-60 seconds between the rumen to contract and relax. Rumen activities are also an important indicator and two contractions per minute are indicative of normal activity (Gardner, 2012). There should be 10 to 12 strong rumen muscles every 5 minutes.

RUMINATION Rumination or cud-chewing is the process by which the cow regurgitates previously consumed feed and chews it further. It takes about 50-60 seconds between the rumen to contract and relax. Rumen activities are also an important indicator and two contractions per minute are indicative of normal activity (Gardner, 2012). There should be 10 to 12 strong rumen muscles every 5 minutes. In addition, animals' selectivity and ruminating control can give an idea of the quality of the mixture. Under normal conditions, animals make 60 chewing movements per minute. If this number is less than 40 units / minute, it should be known that rumen activity and pH are negatively affected.

BODY’S CONDITION SCORE Body condition score is an important tool for grouping animals and evaluating feeding status and reproductive performance (Wiltbanket al., 2007). Scoring is carried out numerically between 1-5 values (Bewley, 2008; Anonim, 2011). In cows that do not show the expected body condition point (BCP) during lactation, milk yield and reproductive performance decreases and metabolic problems may increase (Treacheret al. 1986).

MILK YIELD AND COMPOSITION The most important milk constitutes are fat, protein, and lactose. Milk protein and lactose are limitedly affected by nutrition manipulations. These two units are very much correlated and lactose and milk protein are released from the mammary glands. Milk composition is determined by genetic structure and environmental conditions and most importantly nutrition. Changes in milk yield and composition are the most important indicators of trouble or negativity in milking cows.

BLOOD METABOLITES Blood tests have been used in many areas for early detection and control purposes. These test results are compared with the normal values according to the physiological status of the animal, and thus, information is obtained. With feeding, substantial changes in the blood metabolic profile of animal can occur (Dhiman et al., 1991; Khaled et al., 1999; Ingvartsen, 2006; Payne and Dew, 1970). Lack of minerals, proteins and vitamins in bovine diets can lead to major changes in metabolism (Pârvu, 1992). Besides, the frequency of problems seen in some periods such as transition period and early lactation increases.

WORKER There must be a person responsible for the animals feeding and he must be trained on this subject. Worker is one of the most important components of the system, and its effect can be possible in an integrated system. At this point, the person responsible for preparation of ration, the manager and the owner of the herd should have a joint understanding and should be in cooperation. Feeder must have technical knowledge about feeds, feed preparation, and feeding phases (Soriona, 2016).

CONCLUSION The feeder management provides the amount of feed needed by cattle for high performance, allowing for profitable production. Many problems that are experienced today lie in the lack of attention to feed management. The feeder management practices are herd management application that affects cattle farms, revenue generation, and economic sustainability and profitability and contribute significantly to the feed safety.

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