Grazing behavior and production for lactating cows differing in residual feed intake while grazing spring and summer rangeland

James E. Sprinkle, Melinda J. Ellison, John B. Hall, Joel V. Yelich, Carmen M. Willmore, Jameson R. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The objectives were to determine if previously classified, efficient (LRFI, low-residual-feed intake, n = 12 × 2 yr) vs. inefficient (HRFI, high-residual-feed intake, n = 12 × 2 yr) lactating 2-yr-old Hereford × Angus cows differed in grazing behavior, body weight (BW), body condition score (BCS), and calf weaning weight while grazing rugged rangeland pastures. Cows were fitted with grazing halters containing both an accelerometer and a global positioning system (GPS) data logger during June 14 to July 4, 2016, August 2 to 25, 2016, May 23 to June 12, 2017, and August 5 to 28, 2017. GPS data were recorded at 7-min intervals in 2016 and 4-min intervals in 2017 and accelerometer data recorded at 25 times/s. Grazing time (GT), resting, walking, bite rate (BR), daily travel distance (DTD), elevation, and slope were analyzed with a mixed model that included fixed effects of RFI group, day, and RFI group × day and cow within treatment as the random effect. Cow BW, BCS, and calf weaning weight were analyzed by analysis of variance with treatment as the main effect. There were no differences (P > 0.10) due to RFI detected for BW, BCS, or calf weaning weights. During periods of mild heat load (MHL), HRFI cows spent more (P < 0.05) time resting during the day at lower elevations (P < 0.05) than LRFI cows. During a 6-d period in spring with only 2 h MHL, HRFI cows grazed 1.7 h/d longer than LRFI cows (P < 0.05); commencing grazing earlier in the morning and extending the grazing bout later. During the summer with > MHL, LRFI cows grazed more than HRFI cows 18% of the time (P < 0.10). The HRFI cows had greater GT than LRFI cows only 3% of the time (P < 0.10) during summer. There was no difference (P > 0.10) in BR between HRFI and LRFI cattle. The DTD tended (P < 0.10) to be greater for LRFI cattle during summer 2017. Over all sample periods, HRFI had greater walking than LRFI 15% of the time and LRFI exceeded HRFI cattle for walking 3% of the time (P < 0.10). The greater walking for HRFI was assumed to be associated with more search grazing. Metabolic heat load on hot summer days for HRFI cattle is presumed to have contributed to differences observed in grazing behavior. These results suggest that lactating cows with low-RFI phenotypes appear to be better adapted to grazing rugged rangelands in late summer during periods of MHL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbertxab063
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021


  • accelerometer
  • beef cattle
  • global positioning system
  • grazing behavior
  • rangeland
  • residual feed intake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Grazing behavior and production for lactating cows differing in residual feed intake while grazing spring and summer rangeland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this