When given sufficient feed-bunk space, limit-fed dairy heifers fed once a day performed at least as well as heifers fed twice daily in a University of Guelph, Ontario, study.

Holstein heifers averaging 183 days old were fed at noon or at noon and 2 p.m., and were given 16” or 11” of bunk space per heifer. The ration was formulated to meet the nutrient requirements of dairy heifers gaining 1.75 lbs a day and was fed at 2% of body weight daily. Dry matter intake, average daily gains (ADG), feeding times and competitive behavior were recorded.

Dry matter intake was similar between treatments. But average daily gain was higher when animals were given 16” of bunk space and tended to be higher when they were fed once a day compared with those fed twice a day or given restricted bunk space. Heifers fed once a day were displaced from the feed bunk twice as often, but spent more time feeding, compared with twice-a-day heifers.

“Overall, providing sufficient feed-bunk space to allow all limit-fed heifers to feed simultaneously improves feed efficiency and ADG and reduces variability in feeding time,” the researchers wrote. “Additionally, although feeding once a day resulted in increased competition, it also enabled heifers to gain adequate weight and spend more time feeding each day.”

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