Intake, water consumption, ruminal fermentation, and stress response of beef heifers fed after different lengths of delays in the daily feed delivery time

L. A. González, L. B. Correa, A. Ferret, X. Manteca, J. L. Ruíz-de-la-Torre, S. Calsamiglia

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Four rumen-fistulated Holstein heifers (134 ± 1 kg initial BW) were used in a 4 × 4 Latin square design to determine the effects of delaying daily feed delivery time on intake, ruminal fermentation, behavior, and stress response. Each 3-wk experimental period was preceded by 1 wk in which all animals were fed at 0800 h. Feed bunks were cleaned at 0745 h and feed offered at 0800 h (T0, no delay), 0900 (T1), 1000 (T2), and 1100 (T3) from d 1 to 21 with measurements taken during wk 1 and 3. Heifers were able to see each other at all times. Concentrate and barley straw were offered in separate compartments of the feed bunks, once daily and for ad libitum intake. Ruminal pH and saliva cortisol concentrations were measured at 0, 4, 8, and 12 h postfeeding on d 3 and 17 of each experimental period. Fecal glucocorticoid metabolites were measured on d 17. Increasing length of delay in daily feed delivery time resulted in a quadratic response in concentrate DMI (low in T1 and T2; P = 0.002), whereas straw DMI was greatest in T1 and T3 (cubic P = 0.03). Treatments affected the distribution of DMI within the day with a linear decrease observed between 0800 and 1200 h but a linear increase during nighttimes (2000 to 0800 h), whereas T1 and T2 had reduced DMI between 1200 and 1600 h (quadratic P = 0.04). Water consumption(L/d) was not affected but decreased linearly when expressed as liters per kilogram of DMI (P = 0.01). Meal length was greatest and eating rate slowest in T1 and T2 (quadratic P ≤ 0.001). Size of the first meal after feed delivery was reduced in T1 on d 1 (cubic P = 0.05) and decreased linearly on d 2 (P = 0.01) after change. Concentrate eating and drinking time (shortest in T1) and straw eating time (longest in T1) followed a cubic trend (P ≤ 0.02). Time spent lying down was shortest and ruminating in standing position longest in T1 and T2. Delay of feeding time resulted in greater daily maximum salivary cortisol concentration (quadratic P = 0.04), which was greatest at 0 h in T1 and at 12 h after feeding in T2 (P < 0.05). Daily mean fecal glucocorticoid metabolites were greatest in T1 and T3 (cubic P = 0.04). Ruminal pH showed a treatment effect at wk 1 because of increased values in T1 and T3 (cubic P = 0.01). Delaying feed delivery time was not detrimental for rumen function because a stress response was triggered, which led to reduced concentrate intake, eating rate, and size of first meal, and increased straw intake. Increased salivary cortisol suggests that animal welfare is compromised. © 2009 American Society of Animal Science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2709-2718
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2009


  • Feeding time
  • Heifer
  • Ruminal pH
  • Stress response


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