Feeding Behaviour of Dairy Animals

Published on: 11/8/2018
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The very word behavior doesn’t comply with humans only, it is with animals too. Animals, as humans do, also have their typical feeding habits. They behave in different manner to different feeds. Ethology is the name given to the science that deals with animal behavior. Better understanding of Ethology helps us to make better and efficient feeding management which is an inevitable part of a farm operation.

Types of ingestive behavior

There are namely three types of ingestive behavior: grazing behavior, feeding behavior and drinking behavior.

Factors affecting ingestive behavior

  • Breed difference
  • Age difference
  • Climatic conditions

The daily routine of maintenance behavior is determined by the timing of feeding. Intensive condition – feed when food is offered.  Free ranging – grazing.

Patterns of feeding behavior

  • Varies according to physical consistency of ration
  • Type of food
  • Availability of food
  • Foraging and eating behavior of species
  • Level of food demand by species

Feeds generally available in Northern parts of India

Green fodder includes Berseem, Maize, Sugar graze, Oats, Lucerne, Cowpea, Bajra, Lobia.

Dry fodder includes wheat bhusa, paddy straw.

Concentrate ingredients include Maize grain, Soya bean, Wheat bran, Mineral mixture, salts, etc.

Feeding schedule


  • 1 to 5 days – colostrum -10% of body weight
  • 5days to 2 months –milk 1/10th of BW + 250 gm of concentrates
  • 3 month –milk 1/20th of BW +500 gm concentrates /day
  • 4th month- milk 1/20th of BW +750 gm of concentrates /day

Green fodder

Palatable, succulent green fodders are highly liked by dairy animals as compared to less succulent ones. They can easily consume up to 8-10% of their body weight.

  • Time of feeding: Morning and evening hours
  • Quantity of green fodder consumed –depends on the type of green fodder and species of animal

Jaw movements seen for green fodder in different cattle and buffalo breeds

  • Tharparkar: 60-65/min
  • Karan fries: 70-72/min
  • Sahiwal: 60-63/min
  • Buffalo:  64-70/min
  • Calf: 80-85/min
  • Average jaw movements for green fodder is 60 to 80/min
  • Young animals spent more time in masticating than adult animals

Dry fodder

                                                                                                    Wheat bhusa

  • Time of feeding: after animal has consumed green fodder
  • Jaw movements:

         Buffalo:       66-70/min

         Tharparkar: 62-65/min

         Sahiwal:      61-65 /min

         Karan fries:  69-72/min




  • Generally, the animals are offered concentrate at the time of milking
  • Milking schedule – 5 am, 12 pm, and 5 pm
  • Concentrate is poured into a trough, from which the animals eats by gathering up scoopful with its tongue and suckling it into the mouth
  • Absence of biting movements, only chewing movements noticed
  • Time spent on concentrate eating is 15 to 20 minutes (average)


Eating speed

  • Eating speed of animals depends upon the type of feed given to it
  • It is fast comparatively in concentrate than in case of fodder
  • Cows while taking whole green fodder in their mouth chew it for 20-24 times in one grasp and 30-38 times jaw movement/min
  • While in the case of dry fodder it took 16-23 times in one grasp and 28-34 times jaw movement/ min




  • It is the act of regurgitating, re-mastication, re-swallowing previously ingested feed
  • Large quantities of slightly chewed herbage are consumed and stored in rumen
  • Boluses of herbage are later regurgitated from rumen then chewed and re-swallowed

Pattern of rumination

Bolus of feed is re-chewed with lateral grinding of jaw movements.

Body position

  • Lying position in sternal recumbency (majority) and standing position
  • Animals ruminate after consumption of feed in leisure time either in lying position or in standing
  • Rumination time: in afternoon hours under the shade and in the late evening hours

      Murrah: 44/min       

      Sahiwal: 51/min

      Tharparkar: 59/min

  • Pause between each phase: 3- 4 seconds
  • It was seen that in resting position cow’s jaw movement in either side was 40-47 times

Drinking behavior

The animals drink after the consumption of fodder in the late afternoon and in the evening hours. Their tongue plays a passive role in drinking, nose is always kept above water surface by animals while drinking water. Fresh, clean water should be made available to them throughout 24 hrs. Amount of water consumed by animals varies with season, species and breed of animals.



Different types of dairy animals have different likeness and feeding behavior towards same feed. Time taken for eating is also different. Green, dry fodders or concentrates are offered to animals at particular interval of day. Drinking time and behavior is an important aspect to be considered. Better understanding of feeding behavior will help in better farm planning, budgeting and executing.

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