U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


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Carlson, J.C., R.S. Stahl, J.J. Wagner, T.E. Engle, S.T. DeLiberto, D.A. Reid, and S.J. Werner. 2018. Nutritional depletion of total mixed rations by red-winged blackbirds and projected impacts on dairy cow performance. Journal of Dairy Research 85(3): 273-276. doi: 10.1017/S0022029918000481


This document is a U.S. government work and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


This Research Communication describes an investigation of the nutritional depletion of total mixed rations (TMR) by pest birds. We hypothesized that species-specific bird depredation of TMR can alter the nutritional composition of the ration and that these changes can negatively impact the performance of dairy cows. Blackbirds selected the high energy fraction of the TMR (i.e., flaked corn) and reduced starch, crude fat and total digestible nutrients during controlled feeding experiments. For Holsteins producing 37·1 kg of milk/d, dairy production modeling illustrated that total required net energy intake (NEI) was 35·8 Mcal/d. For the reference TMR unexposed to blackbirds and the blackbird-consumed TMR, NEI supplied was 41·2 and 37·8 Mcal/d, and the resulting energy balance was 5·4 and 2·0 Mcal/d, respectively. Thus, Holsteins fed the reference and blackbird-consumed TMR were estimated to gain one body condition score in 96 and 254 d, and experience daily weight change due to reserves of 1·1 and 0·4 kg/d, respectively. We discuss these results in context of an integrated pest management program for mitigating the depredation caused by pest birds at commercial dairies.

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