Source: Journal of Dairy Research
The study in this research paper was undertaken with a hypothesis that accelerometer data can be used to improve monitoring of energy balance in dairy cows. Animals of high (select, S) and average (control, C) genetic-merit lines were allocated to two feeding systems, by-product (BP) and homegrown (HG). This culminated in four production systems referred to as BPS, BPC, HGS and HGC. Cows between their first and fourth lactations were included and a total of 8602 records were used. The target crude protein (CP) and metabolisable energy (ME) content in the BP diet was 185 g/kg DM and 12.3 MJ/kg DM while it was 180 g/kg DM, and 11.5 MJ/kg DM for the HG diet, respectively. Milk yield, body energy content (BEC) and animal activity were monitored while the animals were all housed for winter. Results showed that cows on homegrown feeds were significantly (P < 0.05) more active than cows on by-product feeds as indicated by higher motion index and number of steps per day. Feeding duration was not significantly different (P > 0.05) between cows under by-product feeding system irrespective of the energy balance of the cows. However, there were significant differences for cows under homegrown feeding system. Cows in negative energy balance had a longer feeding duration per day than cows in positive energy balance. Milk yield was negatively correlated (P < 0.05) to motion index and number of steps per day but not to lying time and feeding duration. The results showed differences in cow activity were related to diet content and body energy status. This is useful in precision farming where feeds are provided according to specific animal behaviour and feed requirements.