The best times to push up feed

Posted on March 21, 2023 in Dairy Performance
By Jon Rasmussen
Research has shown reduced sorting, elevated lying times, positive milk responses, and enhanced milk component responses are all possible with more feed deliveries and feed pushups. As such, many farm managers have scheduled someone to handle pushups every hour or invested in an automatic feed pusher.

However, on some farms, this may not be practical. In that case, how do you determine the pushup schedule that’s best for your cows?

One of the simpler technologies we can use in observing feedbunk behavior and feed pushups is a time-lapse camera, which allows us to observe cows at a distance. The best videos cover a few days to encompass the different activities that occur throughout the week. Watching your cows’ behavior will best determine the needs of your herd.

Our experiences have indicated the following pushup times are effective.

  • One hour post-feeding: Cows generally consume a large meal after the TMR feeding and move around a sizable portion of the feed. This makes it a good time to pushup or reposition the feed.
  • Throughout the first few hours post-feeding: Some research suggests multiple pushups in the first few hours after the initial feed delivery.
  • Prior to cows’ return from milking.
  • Twelve to 14 hours post-feeding: Cows tend to eat in a zone and do not venture away from that zone – even if their zone is empty and another has more feed. Therefore, redistributing the feed with a bucket instead of a pushup blade is desirable as a bucket can pick up feed from areas of the feedbunk with excessive feed and move it to empty areas. This lessons the risk of having completely bare spots during the late hours when minimal feed remains.
  • When your cows’ behavior shows it will be beneficial: For example, cows may reach when the feed is too far from the curb, when minimal feed is in front of them, or when feed is pushed too close to the curb. When a cow repeatedly reaches for its feed, it can affect its neck and feet and thus impact eating time and/or lying time.

Setting your feed pushup schedule is not a one-and-done process. Once you have adjusted the schedule, stick to it for a few weeks and observe the process again. Continually gaining value from pushups requires regular review, communication and adaptation. Involve your feed consultant and feed team in the process to help bring in new ideas for improvement and to do what’s best for your operation and cows.

About the author: Jon Rasmussen is a dairy technology specialist on the Vita Plus team.  He grew up on a small dairy farm in northeast Wisconsin.  Rasmussen attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned a bachelor’s degree in dairy science.  For the past six years, he’s specialized in records analysis for the Vita Plus dairy team.  He works with dairy producers and consultants to help them evaluate data for improved dairy business management. 

Category: Dairy Performance
Facility design
Feed quality and nutrition