A diverse range of concentrate allocation strategies are adopted on dairy farms. The objectives of this study were to examine the effects on cow performance [dry matter (DM) intake (DMI), milk yield and composition, body tissue changes, and fertility] of adopting 2 contrasting concentrate allocation strategies over the first 140 d of lactation. Seventy-seven Holstein-Friesian dairy cows were allocated to 1 of 2 concentrate allocation strategies at calving, namely group or individual cow. Cows on the group strategy were offered a mixed ration comprising grass silage and concentrates in a 50:50 ratio on a DM basis. Cows on the individual cow strategy were offered a basal mixed ration comprising grass silage and concentrates (the latter included in the mix to achieve a mean intake of 6 kg/cow per day), which was formulated to meet the cow’s energy requirements for maintenance plus 24 kg of milk/cow per day. Additional concentrates were offered via an out-of-parlor feeding system, with the amount offered adjusted weekly based on each individual cow’s milk yield during the previous week. In addition, all cows received a small quantity of straw in the mixed ration part of the diet (approximately 0.3 kg/cow per day), plus 0.5 kg of concentrate twice daily in the milking parlor. Mean concentrate intakes over the study period were similar with each of the 2 allocation strategies (11.5 and 11.7 kg of DM/cow per day for group and individual cow, respectively), although the pattern of intake with each treatment differed over time. Concentrate allocation strategy had no effect on either milk yield (39.3 and 38.0 kg/d for group and individual cow, respectively), milk composition, or milk constituent yield. The milk yield response curves with each treatment were largely aligned with the concentrate DMI curves. Cows on the individual cow treatment had a greater range of concentrate DMI and milk yields than those on the group treatment. With the exception of a tendency for cows on the individual cow treatment to lose more body weight to nadir than cows on the group treatment, concentrate allocation strategy had little effect on either body weight or body condition score over the experimental period. Cows on the individual cow treatment had a higher pregnancy rate to first and second service and tended to have a higher 100-d in calf rate than cows on the group treatment. This study demonstrates that concentrate allocation strategy had little effect on overall production performance.
Little, M. W., O'Connell, N. E., & Ferris, C. P. (2016). A comparison of individual cow versus group concentrate allocation strategies on dry matter intake, milk production, tissue changes, and fertility of Holstein-Friesian cows offered a grass silage diet. Journal of Dairy Science, 99(6), 4360-4373. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2015-10441