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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Characterizing and Managing Animal Stress/Well-Being in Livestock Production Title: Determination of minimum meal interval and analysis of feeding behavior in feedlot heifers

Authors
item Brown Brandl, Tami
item Eigenberg, Roger

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: June 19, 2013
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Citation: Brown Brandl, T.M., Eigenberg, R.A. 2013. Determination of minimum meal interval and analysis of feeding behavior in feedlot heifers. In: Berckmans, D., Vandermeulen, J., editors. Precision Livestock Farming '13, Proceedings of the 6th European Conference on Precision Livestock Farming, September 10-12, 2013, Leuven, Belgium. p. 675-684.

Interpretive Summary: Feeding behavior contains valuable information that can be useful for managing livestock. To describe feeding behavior parameters such as number of meals per day, average time per meal, and total time spent eating. However, the data is not easy to interpret because animals take short breaks in the eating of a single meal because of social interaction with other animals and drinking events. The minimum time between meals is a common assumption. This paper helps to establish a protocol to evaluate meal data to determine a minimum time between meals. The most appropriate minimum meal interval was determined by analyzing feeding behavior data to determine the number of meals, the average meal length, and total time spent eating at minimum meal intervals ranging from 1 to 60 min. These data were evaluated using rate of change based on interval differencing. A minimum meal interval of 10 minutes for finishing feedlot cattle was determined using this method. In the subsequent analysis, feeding behavior data from feedlot cattle with and without access to shade were evaluated. It was found that cattle with access to shade did not change their feeding behavior with increases in temperature as much as cattle without access to shade.

Technical Abstract: Feeding behavior contains valuable information that can be useful for managing livestock, identifying sick animals, and determining genetic differences within a herd. The objectives of this work were to determine the minimum meal interval and to assess changes in feeding behavior of feedlot heifers when exposed to various temperatures with and without access to shade. The length of this minimum meal interval impacts the interpretation of meal data. The most appropriate minimum meal interval was determined by analyzing feeding behavior data to determine the number of meals, the average meal length, and total time spent eating at minimum meal intervals ranging from 1 to 60 min. These data were evaluated using rate of change based on interval differencing; a subsequent analysis identified the inflection point of the rate of change graph. A minimum meal interval of 10 minutes for finishing feedlot cattle was determined using this method. In the subsequent analysis, feeding behavior data from feedlot cattle with and without access to shade were evaluated. Feeding behavior data from 256 feedlot heifers (of 4 different breeds) were evaluated over 2 summer periods (128 heifers/year). Cattle were penned in one of 16 pens (8 shaded and 8 unshaded). Individual feeding behavior data was collected every 30 seconds throughout the 6 week summer period. It was determined that feeding behavior of cattle was impacted by Temperature Humidity Index (THI), access to shade and breed.

Last Modified: 9/20/2014
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