Limitations and potential for individualised feeding of concentrate supplements to grazing dairy cows
Hills, JL and Garcia, SC and Dela Rue, B and Clark, CEF, Limitations and potential for individualised feeding of concentrate supplements to grazing dairy cows, Animal Production Science, 55, (7) pp. 922-930. ISSN 1836-0939 (2015) [Refereed Article]
The increasing availability and installation of computerised feeding and milk-monitoring technology in Australia and New Zealand has led to an increased interest in feeding individual cows different amounts and types of supplements over lactation. However, there is confusion about the potential benefits of individualised feeding strategies compared with feeding the same amount of supplement to all cows in the herd on any given day. The majority of bail feeding research conducted over the past 30 years has identified little difference in cow response between flat-rate feeding and more complicated approaches of split feeding or feeding to individual cow milk yield. However, it must be noted that many of these experiments involved animals with ad libitum access to a forage supply. This is an important distinction as individual cows receiving high-quality forage ad libitum would be able to compensate, at least partially, for any shortage in concentrate. Large variability in response to supplements among individual cows within the herd implies that there should be a benefit from individualised bail feeding practices. This review examines the potential for individualised bail feeding in pasture-based dairy systems, considering both system (pasture allowance and type) and cow-level parameters (e.g. dry matter intake, milk yield, genotype, bodyweight, stage of lactation) that could affect the individual cow response to a particular supplement, and discusses the current limitations and future challenges for implementing this technology on farm. Recommendations for future research are made to address any knowledge gaps.