Skip to main content Accessibility help

The effect of temporal variation in feed quality and quantity on the diurnal feeding behaviour of dairy cows

  • A. J. John (a1), S. C. Garcia (a1), K. L. Kerrisk (a1), M. J. Freeman (a2), M. R. Islam (a1) and C. E. F. Clark (a1)...


The diurnal feeding patterns of dairy cows affects the 24 h robot utilisation of pasture-based automatic milking systems (AMS). A decline in robot utilisation between 2400 and 0600 h currently occurs in pasture-based AMS, as cow feeding activity is greatly reduced during this time. Here, we investigate the effect of a temporal variation in feed quality and quantity on cow feeding behaviour between 2400 and 0600 h as a potential tool to increase voluntary cow trafficking in an AMS at night. The day was allocated into four equal feeding periods (0600 to 1200, 1200 to 1800, 1800 to 2400 and 2400 to 0600 h). Lucerne hay cubes (CP = 19.1%, water soluble carbohydrate = 3.8%) and oat, ryegrass and clover hay cubes with 20% molasses (CP = 11.8%, water soluble carbohydrate = 10.7%) were offered as the ‘standard’ and ‘preferred’ (preference determined previously) feed types, respectively. The four treatments were (1) standard feed offered ad libitum (AL) throughout 24 h; (2) as per AL, with preferred feed replacing standard feed between 2400 and 0600 h (AL + P); (3) standard feed offered at a restricted rate, with quantity varying between each feeding period (20:10:30:60%, respectively) as a proportion of the (previously) measured daily ad libitum intake (VA); (4) as per VA, with preferred feed replacing standard feed between 2400 and 0600 h (VA + P). Eight non-lactating dairy cows were used in a 4 × 4 Latin square design. During each experimental period, treatment cows were fed for 7 days, including 3 days habituation and 4 days data collection. Total daily intake was approximately 8% greater (P < 0.001) for the AL and AL + P treatments (23.1 and 22.9 kg DM/cow) as compared with the VA and VA + P treatments (21.6 and 20.9 kg DM/cow). The AL + P and VA treatments had 21% and 90% greater (P < 0.001) dry matter intake (DMI) between 2400 and 0600 h, respectively, compared with the AL treatment. In contrast, the VA + P treatment had similar DMI to the VA treatment. Our experiment shows ability to increase cow feeding activity at night by varying feed type and quantity, though it is possible that a penalty to total DMI may occur using VA. Further research is required to determine if the implementation of variable feed allocation on pasture-based AMS farms is likely to improve milking robot utilisation by increasing cow feeding activity at night.


Corresponding author


Hide All
AFIA 2014. AFIA – Laboratory Method Manual (03/001). Australian Fodder Industry Association Inc., Melbourne, Australia.
Ankom Technologies 2014a. Acid detergent fiber in feeds: filter bag technique (for A200 and A200I). ANKOM Technologies, Macedon, NY, USA.
Ankom Technologies 2014b. Neutral detergent fiber in feeds: filter bag technique (for A200 and A200I). ANKOM Technologies, Macedon, NY, USA.
Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) 1995. Official methods of analysis, 16 th edition. AOAC, Arlington, VA, USA.
Bach, A, Iglesias, C, Calsamiglia, S and Devant, M 2007. Effect of amount of concentrate offered in automatic milking systems on milking frequency, feeding behavior, and milk production of dairy cattle consuming high amounts of corn silage. Journal of Dairy Science 90, 50495055.
Buchman, DT and Hemken, RW 1964. Ad libitum intake and digestibility of several alfalfa hays by cattle and sheep. Journal of Dairy Science 47, 861864.
Clark, CEF, Horadagoda, A, Kerrisk, KL, Scott, V, Islam, MR, Kaur, R and Garcia, SC 2014. Grazing soybean to increase voluntary cow traffic in a pasture-based automatic milking system. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 27, 422430.
Dalley, DE, Roche, JR, Moate, PJ and Grainger, C 2001. More frequent allocation of herbage does not improve the milk production of dairy cows in early lactation. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 41, 593599.
Delagarde, R, Peyraud, JL, Delaby, L and Faverdin, P 2000. Vertical distribution of biomass, chemical composition and pepsin – cellulase digestibility in a perennial ryegrass sward: interaction with month of year, regrowth age and time of day. Animal Feed Science and Technology 84, 4968.
DeVries, TJ, von Keyserlingk, MAG and Beauchemin, KA 2003. Short communication: diurnal feeding pattern of lactating dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 86, 40794082.
Gibb, MJ, Huckle, CA and Nuthall, R 1998. Effect of time of day on grazing behaviour by lactating dairy cows. Grass and Forage Science 53, 4146.
Gregorini, P 2012. Diurnal grazing pattern: its physiological basis and strategic management. Animal Production Science 52, 416430.
Gregorini, P, Clark, CEF, Jago, JG, Glassey, CB, McLeod, KLM and Romera, AJ 2009. Restricting time at pasture: effects on dairy cow herbage intake, foraging behavior, hunger-related hormones, and metabolite concentration during the first grazing session. Journal of Dairy Science 92, 45724580.
Helmreich, S, Hauser, R, Jungbluth, T, Wechsler, B and Gygax, L 2014. Time-budget constraints for cows with high milking frequency on farms with automatic milking systems. Livestock Science 167, 315322.
Horadagoda, A, Fulkerson, WJ, Nandra, KS and Barchia, IM 2009. Grazing preferences by dairy cows for 14 forage species. Animal Production Science 49, 586594.
John, A, Clark, C, Freeman, M, Kerrisk, K, Garcia, S and Halachmi, I 2016a. Review: milking robot utilization, a successful precision livestock farming evolution. Animal 10, 14841492.
John, A, Clark, C, Freeman, M, Kerrisk, K and Rawnsley, R 2013. Pasture management in two high performing automatic milking systems. In Dairy Research Foundation’s 2013 Symposium, 4–5 July 2013, Kiama, Australia, pp. 99103.
John, A, Garcia, S, Kerrisk, K, Freeman, M and Clark, C 2016b. Diurnal feeding patterns of dairy cattle and implications for automatic milking systems. In Dairy Research Foundation 2016 Symposium, 15–17 June 2016, Wagga Wagga, Australia, pp. 8085.
John, AJ, Garcia, SC, Kerrisk, KL, Freeman, MJ, Islam, MR and Clark, CEF 2017. Short communication: the diurnal intake and behavior of dairy cows when access to a feed of consistent nutritive value is restricted. Journal of Dairy Science 100, 92799284.
Kerrisk, K 2009. Feeding in an automated milking system. In Proceedings of the Dairy Research Foundation’s 2009 Symposium, Camden, Australia, pp. 163169.
Lyons, NA, Kerrisk, KL and Garcia, SC 2013. Comparison of 2 systems of pasture allocation on milking intervals and total daily milk yield of dairy cows in a pasture-based automatic milking system. Journal of Dairy Science 96, 44944504.
Molfino, J, Clark, CEF, Kerrisk, KL and Garcia, SC 2017. Evaluation of an activity and rumination monitor in dairy cattle grazing two types of forages. Animal Production Science 57, 15571562.
Oddy, VH, Robards, GE and Low, SG 1983. Prediction of in vivo dry matter digestibility from the fibre and nitrogen content of a feed. In Feed information and animal production: proceedings of the second symposium of the International Network of Feed Information Centres, Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, Slough, England, pp. 395398.
Prescott, N, Mottram, T and Webster, A 1998. Relative motivations of dairy cows to be milked or fed in a Y-maze and an automatic milking system. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 57, 2333.
Primary Industries Standing Committee 2007. Nutrient requirements of domesticated ruminants. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Schirmann, K, Chapinal, N, Weary, DM, Heuwieser, W, and von Keyserlingk, MAG 2012. Rumination and its relationship to feeding and lying behavior in Holstein dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 95, 32123217.
Stobbs, T 1970. Automatic measurement of grazing time by dairy cows on tropical grass and legume pastures. Tropical Grasslands 4, 237244.
Taweel, HZ, Tas, BM, Dijkstra, J and Tamminga, S 2004. Intake regulation and grazing behavior of dairy cows under continuous stocking. Journal of Dairy Science 87, 34173427.
Tolkamp, BJ, Kyriazakis, I, Oldham, JD, Lewis, M, Dewhurst, RJ and Newbold, JR 1998. Diet choice by dairy cows. 2. Selection for metabolizable protein or for ruminally degradable protein? Journal of Dairy Science 81, 26702680.
Williams, YJ, Doyle, PT and Egan, AR 2014. Diurnal variation in rumen fill of dairy cows grazing Persian clover at different pasture allowances. Animal Production Science 54, 13881393.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed