Journal of dairy science

The effects of feeding time on milk production, total-tract digestibility, and daily rhythms of feeding behavior and plasma metabolites and hormones in dairy cows.

PMID 25306274


The timing of feed intake entrains circadian rhythms regulated by internal clocks in many mammals. The objective of this study was to determine if the timing of feeding entrains daily rhythms in dairy cows. Nine Holstein cows were used in a replicated 3 × 3 Latin square design with 14-d periods. An automated system recorded the timing of feed intake over the last 7 d of each period. Treatments were feeding 1×/d at 0830 h (AM) or 2030 h (PM) and feeding 2×/d in equal amounts at 0830 and 2030 h. All treatments were fed at 110% of daily intake. Cows were milked 2×/d at 0500 and 1700 h. Milk yield and composition were not changed by treatment. Daily intake did not differ, but twice-daily feeding tended to decrease total-tract digestibility of organic matter and neutral detergent fiber (NDF). A treatment by time of day interaction was observed for feeding behavior. The amount of feed consumed in the first 2h after feeding was 70% greater for PM compared with AM feeding. A low rate of intake overnight (2400 to 0500 h; 2.2 ± 0.74% daily intake/h, mean ± SD) and a moderate rate of intake in the afternoon (1200 to 1700 h; 4.8 ± 1.1% daily intake/h) was noted for all treatments, although PM slightly reduced the rate during the afternoon period compared with AM. A treatment by time of day interaction was seen for fecal NDF and indigestible NDF (iNDF) concentration, blood urea nitrogen, plasma glucose and insulin concentrations, body temperature, and lying behavior. Specifically, insulin increased and glucose decreased more after evening feeding than after morning feeding. A cosine function within a 24-h period was used to characterize daily rhythms using a random regression. Rate of feed intake during spontaneous feeding, fecal NDF and iNDF concentration, plasma glucose, insulin, NEFA, body temperature, and lying behavior fit a cosine function within a 24-h period that was modified by treatment. In conclusion, feeding time can reset the daily rhythms of feeding and lying behavior, core body temperature, fecal NDF and iNDF concentration, and plasma blood urea nitrogen, glucose, and insulin concentration of dairy cows, but has no effect on daily DMI and milk production.