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Consequences of management simplifications on animal performance: the example of feed distribution and milking in cows

INRA Prod Anim 25(2) 141-158


1 INRA, UMR1213 Herbivores, F-63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France

2 Clermont Université, VetAgro Sup, UMR Herbivores, BP 10448, F-63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France

3 Institut de l’Elevage, 9 Allée Pierre de Fermat, F-63170 Aubière, France

4 CIIRPO, Le Mourier, F-87800 Saint-Priest-Ligoure, France

5 INRA, UE1296 Monts d’Auvergne, F-63210 Orcival, France


Practice simplifications such as changes in patterns and rhythms of food distribution and milking, influence ruminant performance. The daily distribution of the ration by a mixer wagon which partially grinds long strands, leads to intake levels even higher than when coarse fodders are used. Separate distribution of concentrates of various types to fattening lambs only slightly changes the total intake and the average proportions of the mixture and does not affect growth. But the distribution of silage once every two days or three times a week, or the alternation of the distribution of diet components during the week, are practices that lead to decreased nutritional values of the diet's foods. The use of these techniques is possible, but limited to low / moderate productive animals. Milking once a day reduced milk production from 10 to 30 with a residual effect, which increased with the duration of application and lactation. It caused a parallel decrease in the amount of forage ingested. Thus the animal can mobilize the plasticity of the digestive processes and the metabolic rhythms to adapt to very different changes in diet distribution without upsetting the laws of generic responses known. Intake behaviours are also very adaptable and deployable. This is a strong feature of ruminants with moderate requirements on which the farmer can rely. The plasticity of lactation is lower since a change in the conditions of milk extraction modifies the current production, but has no effect on the scale of the cow's career. Changing practices must be thought of in terms of adaptability of animals therefore requiring further research.