Estimation of individual intakes in dairy cows would be beneficial to select animals according to efficiency of milk production. The n-alkanes technique has been used to estimate intake by dairy cows in free stall barns, limiting faecal samples to one or two per day, but diurnal variation in the ratio of dosed to natural alkanes in faeces represents a source of error. We aimed to adapt this technique to estimate feed intake on a large number of lactating dairy cows housed on commercial dairy farms. Using a change-over design, six lactating cows fed a TMR diet were given a dose of 0.5 g/day of C32 n-alkane administered once a day as a drench (DRE) or top fed (TP). Feed offered and refused were weighed daily. After the lead-in phases, faeces were collected at 0700 hours, 1400 hours and 1900 hours on the last 5 days of each dosing period. Dry matter intake (DMI) was estimated from C31, C33 and C32 concentrations in feeds and in faeces for each dosing system and sampling time. DMI estimated from C31:C32 ratio was better correlated with measured individual DMI than estimates from C33:C32 ratio. For DRE, the best correlation was for sampling at 1400 hours (R2 ≤ 0.96, P < 0.001), but estimated DMI for the 1400 hours sampling was much higher than the actual DMI. For TP, the best correlation was for sampling at 0700 hours (R2 ≤ 0.83, P < 0.001). Feeding C32 n-alkane and collecting faeces once a day at the same time (0700 hours) represents a valuable protocol to measure individual intake on a large number of animals. © CSIRO 2014.
- dry matter