Twenty advanced pregnant Surti buffalo heifers were randomly divided into 2 groups of 10 animals in each to evaluate the effect of challenge feeding on production performance. The animals in control group (CN) were given standard ration while in challenge fed (CF) group, the animals were given additional amounts of concentrate mixture. The mean DM intake of heifers during pre-partum period was similar (10.52 vs. 11.20 kg) in both the groups. However, the post-partum DM intake was higher (P<0.05) in challenge fed group than the control group (10.77 vs. 12.33 kg). The concentrate intake was higher during pre- and post-partum periods in the CF group. The overall mean daily milk yield was higher (P<0.05) in CF group as compared to CN group (2.16 vs. 3.61 kg/d). The milk composition (fat, lactose, protein and SNF content), body condition score and calf birth weight were similar in the both groups. The net income per cow per day was higher in CF than CN group. It was concluded that the challenge feeding in Surti buffaloes improved production performance during early lactation and was found to be economical.
The period from two months pre- and post-calving is the most stressful period in the annual cycle of dairy cows, particularly as feed intake is reduced, while the demand for support of foetal growth and initiation of milk synthesis are increased (Singh et al., 2003; Mondal et al., 2018). Requirements for pregnancy represent nutrients necessary to support the both growth and maintenance of foetus, placenta, uterus and mammary gland. Bovine foetal growth is not linear by gestational age, but exponential with more than 60 per cent of total foetal weight being accrued during the final two months of gestation (Panigrahi et al., 2005). This foetal growth pattern places the greatest nutritional burden on the late pregnant cow. Consequently, last two months of pregnancy needs special care in terms of higher provision of essential nutrients. Therefore, the theory behind challenge feeding is feeding at a higher plane of nutrition during dry period and in early postpartum period in milk animals (Dann et al., 2006). Suboptimal transition from dry period to lactation can decrease total milk production, reproductive performance and the profit potential of dairy animals. Thus, it is necessary that milch animals must be judiciously and adequately fed during this period to exploit their production potential (Bhat et al., 2000) with minimum health problems so that the income level of the dairy farmers is improved.
Apart from this in Surti buffalo heifers lower birth weight of leads to increased calf chances of mortality as maternal nutritional status during late pregnancy is reported to have considerable influence on the colostrum quality and subsequent absorption by the calf (Hough et al., 1990). Further, birth weight of the calf also affects the subsequent growth rate. The heavier calf gains weight at a faster rate than the calf with lower birth weight, even if both are given adequate nutrition. Considering the above points, the present experiment was planned with an aim of achieving better production performance of Surti buffalo heifers through challenge feeding.
Materials and Methods
The experiment was conducted at Livestock Research Station, Navsari Agricultural University, Navsari, Gujarat, India during July 2017 to October 2017. Average annual rainfall of the region is 135.80 cm. The temperature remained between 20 ºC to 33 ºC and relative humidity remained between 56 to 87 percent.
Experimental Animals and Feeding Schedule
Twenty advances pregnant Surti buffalo heifers were selected 60 days before expected date of calving and randomly divided into 2 groups of 10 animals each in CON and CF groups (Table 1) on the basis of body weight (376.90±11.78 and 379.80±17.72 kg). They were randomly allocated into control and challenge feeding schedule.
Table 1: Feeding schedule of experimental animals
|Pre-partum (From 60 days pre-partum up to calving)|
|CN (n=10)||3 kg (1 kg maintenance + 2 kg pregnancy) Approx. 0.75% of BW||ad-libitum|
|CF (n=10)||4 kg (1 kg maintenance + 3 kg pregnancy) Approx. 1.0% of BW||ad-libitum|
|Post-partum (From calving to 60 days post-partum)|
|CN (n=10)||1 kg maintenance + 1.0 kg/2.0 kg of milk||ad-libitum|
|CF (n=10)||1 kg maintenance + 1.0 kg/2.0 kg of milk + 0.5 kg/d till free choice level||ad-libitum|
Housing and Management
The buffalo heifers were housed in a naturally ventilated, cement floored tie stall with facility for individual feeding and watering from dry off (60 d prior to expected calving) till parturition. Five days before the expected date of calving, the animals were shifted to the calving box for parturition where facilities for individual feeding and watering were available. After parturition the calves were separated from the dams and reared individually in calf pen adopting uniform management procedures.
There was daily recording of feed (DM) intake and left over was collected individually for each animal. Buffalo heifer were offered weighed quantities of concentrate after recording of residues, if any, at 9:00 hrs followed by chaffed forages at 11:00 hrs. and 14.00 hrs. The body weight of individual heifer was recorded at the onset of experiment and thereafter at fortnightly intervals up to completion of experiment. The body condition of individual cows was estimated by using visual body condition scoring (BCS) developed by Edmonson et al. (1989) adopting a 1 to 5-point scale of 1 as thin to 5 as obese using 0.5-unit increments. The newborn calves of the experimental heifers were weighed at birth before colostrum feeding.
Proximate composition of feed offered is mentioned in Table 2. The compound concentrate mixture (BIS type -I) contained at least 22 percent protein was used. The dry fodder used was mainly jowar/paddy straw and green fodder was jowar fodder. The chaffed roughage (3 parts green fodder: 1-part dry fodder) was provided ad libitum and concentrate was offered as per the feeding schedule (Table 1) for maintenance and production during pre-partum and post-partum periods. The animals were fed as per feeding standard of ICAR, (2013). The samples of feeds offered and left over were collected and analysed for proximate composition (AOAC, 2005). Daily milk yield of individual buffalo heifer was recorded during morning and evening milking for 60 days and milk samples of morning evening milking were obtained on fortnightly interval for the analysis of milk components (AOAC, 2005) using automatic milk analyzer (Milkoscan). The data were analyzed to test for significance differences between means of variables of diets using the t-test (Snedecor and Cochran, 1994).
Table 2: Proximate composition of feed offered (as on % DM basis)
|Attribute||Concentrate||Green Fodder||Dry Fodder|
|(Type -1)||(Jowar)||(Paady Straw/ Jowar Straw)|
Results and Discussion
The mean DMI during pre-partum period was 10.52±0.33 and 11.20±0.52 kg/d in CN and CF, respectively. The mean DMI from concentrate mixture was higher (P<0.01) in CF group compared to CN (2.83 vs 3.80 kg/d). However, DMI through roughage was statistically similar. These results are in agreement to those reported by Panigrahi et al. (2005) who observed that feeding on a higher plane pre-partum did not affect DMI of crossbred cows significantly.
The mean DMI during postpartum period was higher in CF (10.77 vs 12.33) compared to CN. Similarly, DMI from concentrate mixture was higher (P<0.05) in the treatment group as compared to control group (2.08 vs 4.31 kg/d); however, DMI through roughage was similar in both groups. Similar results were obtained by Kamboj et al. (2016) when crossbred cattle fed with higher plane of nutrition. As the milk yield of animals increased, the concentrate mixture intake also increased continuously from first to last week of postpartum experimental period to replenish the body tissue losses due to higher milk production. The fortnightly body condition score of both treatment groups during the pre-partum and post-partum were similar (Table 3) which might be due to higher milk yield of treatment group of buffaloes leading to higher body tissue losses which may have unified the effect of challenge feeding on their BCS.
Table 3: DM intake on experimental group during pre-partum and post-partum periods
|Body weight (kg)||376.90±11.78||379.80±17.72||0.911|
|Concentrate DMI (kg/d)||2.83b±0.09||3.80a±0.18||0.000***|
|Roughage DMI (kg/d)||7.69±0.24||7.41±0.35||0.508|
|Dry matter intake (kg/d)||10.52±0.33||11.20±0.52||0.281|
|Body condition score||3.48±0.04||3.59±0.05||0.985|
|Body weight (kg)||351.80±11.29||352.20±16.98||0.985|
|Dry matter intake (kg/d)||10.77b±0.35||12.33a±0.59||0.035*|
|Concentrate DMI (kg/d)||2.08b±0.07||4.31a±0.21||0.000***|
|Roughage DMI (kg/d)||8.69±0.32||8.02±0.63||0.359|
|Body condition score||3.40±0.04||3.48±0.03||0.857|
|Birth weight of calves (kg)||22.48±1.54||24.60±0.86||0.276|
Means with different superscript in a row differ significantly (*P<0.05; ***P<0.001)
The birth weights of calves in both the groups were statistically similar (Table 3) though the calves born to treatment group were on an average about 2.1 kg heavier than those born to buffalo heifers of control group. The results are in agreement to those of other workers (Keady et al., 2001; Khan et al., 2002; Panigrahi et al., 2005; Kamboj et al., 2016) who observed that calf birth weights were not significantly affected by plane of pre-calving nutrition. Contrary to this Singh et al. (2003) and Das et al. (2007) reported that increased feeding before calving increased average body weight of calves.
The daily milk yield of treatment group of heifers was higher (P<0.05) than that of control group which might be attributed to a positive energy balance due to extra concentrate feeding during pre-partum as well as post-partum periods. The additional concentrate feeding might have also encouraged development of secretory tissues in mammary glands and made available extra nutrients for enhanced milk synthesis. The positive effect of challenge feeding on milk yield was also reported by Singh et al. (2003) and Das et al. (2007). The milk composition parameters like fat, lactose, protein and SNF were similar in both the groups (Das et al. 2007). On the other hand, Singh et al. (2003) reported that animals kept on higher feeding levels had better milk fat content than animals kept on lower feeding level.
Days to peak milk yield of the heifers were significantly (p<0.05) lower in CN as the control group attained peak yields quite earlier than those in CF group. However, peak milk yield (kg) was similar in both the groups. These findings are in agreement with Bhatt et al. (2000) and Das et al. (2007) who found that higher feeding regimes had no significant effect on peak milk yield of animals. While, Singh et al. (2003) reported significant higher peak yield in animals fed at higher level than those fed at lower level.
Table 4: Production performance of Surti buffaloes heifers during post-partum periods
|Milk yield (kg/d)||2.16b±0.14||3.61a±0.42||0.040*|
|Milk fat (%)||5.90±0.19||5.94±0.23||0.919|
|6 % FCM (kg/d)||2.15±0.54||3.59±1.42||0.08|
|Solid not fat (%)||10.18±0.13||10.01±0.08||0.246|
|Peak yield (kg/d)||3.47±0.18||4.00±0.35||0.589|
|Day to peak milk yield (d)||46.70b±2.90||58.40a±3.62||0.021*|
|Calf mortality (%)||20.00 (2)||0.00 (0)||—|
Means with different superscript in a row differ significantly (*P<0.05)
Economics of Feeding
The economics of feeding is mentioned in Table 5. Total feed cost (Rs. /d/animal) in treatment group was significantly higher (P<0.01) than control group because of additional concentrate consumed by animals. However, higher feed cost was compensated by high milk yield which fetched more price per day as compared to control. Kamboj et al. (2016) also found that challenge feeding in crossbred cows was economical. Cost per kg milk yield was significantly higher in CN group as compared to CF indicating that challenge feeding is economical also.
Table 5: Economics of feeding during pre-partum and post-partum periods
|Total Feed cost (Rs. /d/animal) *||110.39b±3.34||133.57a±5.53||0.001**|
|Milk selling price (Rs. /d/animal)||82.37b±7.15||142.41a±17.90||0.011*|
|Net Profit (Rs. /d/animal)||-28.02±5.91||8.54±8.15||—|
|Feed cost/milk (Rs. /kg)||53.20±4.02||40.56±4.22||0.044*|
*Cost of concentrate: 21 Rs/Kg, Green fodder: 3 Rs/Kg, Dry fodder: 6 Rs/Kg, Milk Fat: Rs 640/Kg; Means with different superscript in a row differ significantly (*P<0.05; **P<0.01)
It was concluded that the practice of challenge feeding improved the productive performance of Surti buffalo heifers during early lactation which was also economically beneficial.
We are thankful to Director of Research, Navsari Agricultural University and Research Scientist and Unit Head, Livestock Research Station, Navsari Agricultural University, Navsari for permitting this study and providing necessary facilities.