Feeding Space Allowances

Feeding space allowances and drinking water availability

Having sufficient feeding space for the numbers of cows in the herd will obviously have implications for yield; where insufficient space is available at feed barriers, particularly with TMR feeding, the shiest cows and heifers, and those far down the herd hierarchy may not be able to feed sufficiently nor have the opportunity to eat the most freshly-mixed and dispensed feed.

Feed face requirements

The amount of feed face per animal will depend on the weight of the animal and the competition for food.

The Red Tractor Scheme stipulates the feed face required per cow for simultaneous and ad-lib feeding.

Cow weight

(kg)

Simultaneous feeding

(m)

Ad-lib feeding

(m)

350

0.55

0.15

400

0.55

0.17

450

0.55

0.19

500

0.55

0.22

550

0.55

0.24

600

0.60

0.26

650

0.65

0.28

700

0.70

0.30

750

0.75

0.32

Competition for feeding space can have further implications in terms of poor herd health, as those cows pushed out at feeding time are likely to suffer from health problems linked to poor nutrition and subsequent lowered immune defences, as well as the immune suppression experienced by newly-calved cows.

Behaviour such as bullying and pushing as cows compete for feeding space will result in dirty feet and legs and increase the potential for environmental mastitis in the herd. It can also cause them to slip and fall into passages where they are likely to cover their teats and udders with muck, providing environmental mastitis bacteria like E. coli the perfect opportunity to invade teat canals, in addition to the injuries they can experience.

A further consideration is the potential, particularly in self-feed systems, for silage to pile-up in areas where cows might lie. Silage undergoing secondary fermentation heats-up, providing an excellent medium to support pathogens responsible for mastitis such as Bacillus licheniformis, and it also provides a warm comfortable bed for the cows to lie on.

Dairy cattle have a high water intake requirement and should never be denied access to good quality drinking water; poor quality or contaminated water supplies are a potential source of mastitis pathogens. Recommendations for space allowances are a minimum of 10cm of trough space per cow for all cows at all times, particularly when waiting to be milked or after milking.