The effect of prepartum synthetic zeolite A supplementation on the eating, lying, and activity behaviors of multiparous grazing dairy cows : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Animal Science at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
Synthetic zeolite A is a precalving feed supplement that improves parturient blood calcium concentrations, thereby reducing hypocalcemia risk. Zeolite is associated with altered feeding behavior in housed cows and may affect lying and activity behaviors due to their established relationships with hypocalcemia. Furthermore, these responses may be affected by parity. This study determined the effect of feeding zeolite prepartum on eating, lying, and activity behaviors in multiparous grazing dairy cows during the transition period. Forty-three cows were randomly allocated to either a Zeolite treatment group (n = 21; individually fed 500 g/d zeolite in 2 kg DM/d maize silage for 18.2 ± 3.6 d prepartum) or a Control group (n = 22; fed maize silage only for 20.6 ± 4.1 d prepartum). Behavior data obtained from accelerometers were analyzed using repeated-measures ANOVA to determine the effects of treatment (Zeolite vs. Control), parity (Parity 2−3 vs. 4+), day, and their interactions, during 3 periods: PRE (-21 to -3 d), PERI (-2 to 2 d) and POST (3 to 28 d) relative to the day of calving (d 0). Parity 4+ cows spent a similar amount of time eating PRE (6.9 h/d) irrespective of treatment, whereas Parity 2–3 Zeolite cows varied in their eating time PRE (7.6 h/d), which was generally lower than that of Parity 2–3 Control cows (7.9 h/d). Zeolite cows also ate for 24 min/d less than Control cows PERI and lay down for 30 min/d longer POST. Regardless of treatment, Parity 2–3 cows ate for 0.6 – 5 min/h longer at night (1700 – 0559 h) and were more active than Parity 4+ cows, especially PRE. They also had shorter lying times PRE (30 min less/d; 1.6 – 4.7 min/h less at night) and PERI (48 min less/d), indicating younger cows ate more at night while their older herdmates were resting. These results suggest a subtle anorexic effect of zeolite in younger grazing dairy cows during precalving supplementation, whereas longer lying times may indicate improved cow comfort and welfare postcalving. Results also reflect possible competitive interactions and differences in time budgets between younger and older cows during the transition period.