Abstract #W11

# W11
Predicting filching: A logistical approach.
Kristina A. Weld*1, Louis E. Armentano1, Amy L. Stanton1, 1University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.

Understanding the feeding behavior of dairy cattle in greater detail can lead us to broader conclusions about animal welfare. One feeding behavior of interest is filching, in which cows steal feed from an automatic gate which they do not have access to, rather than taking the easier route and eating out of a gate that they have access to. The objective of this study was to determine factors that predict filching behavior. Sixty-three cows (28 primiparous, 35 multiparous, average 76 DIM) were assigned to 4 mixed parity groups. All cows were in the same physical pen containing 32 Insentec Roughage Intake Control feed gates (Insentec BV, Marknesse, the Netherlands), but each group had access to a different set of 8 randomly assigned gates. For the first 6 weeks, cows were fed a common diet, followed by a second 3 week period in which cows were fed 1 of 2 diets that differed only in the variety of soybean that they contained. Data were analyzed with logistic regression (Proc Glimmix) in SAS 9.4. For the first 6 weeks, filching at or above 0.5% of diet was positively associated with hip height (P = 0.01). Cows that filched above 1% in the second period consumed 92% (Confidence Interval 89–95%) of their filched feed from their unassigned diet which is significantly above the amount that would be predicted if they filched randomly from unassigned gates (67%). Hip height was positively associated with filching and meal length was shorter for cows that filched in the second period (P < 0.05). Filching in period 1 was not predictive of filching during period 2. Filching was not associated with the number of bunk displacements. These models indicate that height is a requirement for filching in this gate arrangement. However, competition does not necessarily drive filching indicating that filching may not be driven by necessity. Because cattle are willing to work for a novel feed, regardless of competition, this may indicate that cattle are willing to work to experience novelty. This might indicate that provision of novelty, in the form of alternative feeds, plays a larger role in cattle welfare than previously thought.

Key Words: filching, welfare, novel feed