This summer we were very fortunate to have two veterinary student interns working at our clinic. Jackie Martin, a Reading, MN native and second year veterinary student went to seven farms with trail cameras to record feedbunk activity and management. Most farms were consistent from day to day. While consistency is good, what was consistent may not be good.
Here are some things that she found in the middle of the night (and the middle of the day).
Time out of Feed: The cows on some farms were never out of feed and some cows were consistently out of feed for 4-6 hours per day. A few farms had significant variability from day to day on the time cows were out of feed (2-6 hours per day). While two hours may not seem like a big deal, that is 10% of the cow’s day that she does not have access to feed. Six hours per day is 25% of their day.
Feed Push-Ups: Most farms had the feed pushed up at the same times every day. That said, some of the farms need to increase the number of push-ups per day.
Time from Feed Push-Out to Fresh Feed: All the farms we looked at had feed delivered within 30 minutes of feed push-out.
Eating Position: Jackie reconfirmed, on all farms, that cows are territorial at the feed bunk and will return to the same part of the feedbunk to eat every time.
Time of Day that Cows Eat: Cows are looking for feed in the middle of the night and early hours of the morning. They do indeed eat 24 hours per day.
The camera project helped evaluate what is happening throughout the day for lactating cows at the feedbunk. We continue to have access to these cameras to do follow-up work on farms as they make changes or want to reevaluate their bunk management. What happens in the middle of night may be what is holding your cows back from their full potential!