Feed First cow traffic: changes in daily rhythm in relation to free cow traffic
Have, M.M. ten
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With automated milking systems (robot milking) (AMS) cows can either walk around freely or have a forced cow traffic. At Feed First farms the cows can only access the lying area after feeding through a selection gate (Smartgate), which can also direct them to the AMS. In this study, the way cows spend their daytime has been analysed. In particular there has been looked at two different types of farms: Feed First cow traffic farms and free cow traffic farms. Ten farms with AMS are included. Five are free cow traffic farms and five farms make use of the Feed First system. At every farm twelve cows have been observed for ten hours during the day. The cows are classified in parity and DIM. Every ten minutes the location and behaviour of every cow has been recorded. The statistical analyses are conducted 1. on the total period, 2. on the average continuous period, and 3. the number of periods of the changes in behaviour. A number of significant differences regarding the behaviour of the cows have been found. The cows at Feed First farms were less active due to less moving between the different places in the cowshed. The cows ate less and were lying down less at Feed First farms than at the free cow traffic farms. The average continuous period and total period of doing nothing behind the feeding fence was higher at Feed First farms. Furthermore, within the Feed First system a heifer seems to be functioning better than an older cow. The longer period of standing idle behind the feeding fence may be detrimental to claw health. More care will have to go to the feeding. Because a decrease in the number of meals may cause disturbances, such as rumen acidosis (Bach et al., 2009). The cows are less lying down, this could lead to decreased milk production (Metcalf et al., 1992). With the fact that the cows are less dynamic, the feed first system seems to be less suitable for the cow in comparison with free cow traffic.