Feeding Area


Source: National Farm Animal Care Council Code of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals – Dairy Cattle, Section 1.7

To maximize milk production, it is important to maximize the Dry Matter Intake (DMI) of the cow. To achieve this goal, cows may be fed a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) or alternatively a component based ration. Regardless of the type of ration, it is important to ensure cows have easy access to fresh feed throughout the day and that water is easily accessible. Most feeding activity occurs around the time of fresh feed delivery and when cows return from milking. Cows are herd animals and if one feeds, often all want to feed. It is important that cows have ample space to eat and that dominant cows cannot restrict access to feeding areas. Stocking densities at the feed bunk that prevent all cows from feeding at one time increase aggressive competition and keep subordinate cows away from feed (13).


  1. in free stall and bedded-pack barns:
    • provide 24in (60cm) per cow fence line feeding space for mature milking cows
    • provide 30in (76cm) of linear bunk space for pregnant dry cows
  2. ensure feed surfaces are smooth and approximately 4-6in (10-15cm) higher than the standing area
  3. minimize competition at the feed bunk (e.g., use physical barriers at the feed bunk (10))
  4. ensure alleys at the feed bunk are at least 14ft (4.3m) wide to allow easy movement of cattle.