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feeding influence on calving

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VB RANCH

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Time of feeding influence on calving
South Dakota State University Extension | Updated: February 13, 2012


As calving is rapidly approaching for many of you, there are some management factors you can take into consideration to help influence a larger percentage of your cows to calve during the daylight hours. This may not be something that you have given a lot of thought, but just think if you could save one more calf, how that would affect your bottom line.

Numerous research projects and on-farm studies have determined that by feeding cows in the evening, the likelihood of them calving during daylight hours increases significantly. One study in Iowa that compiled data from 15 farms and included 1,331 cows showed that 85% of the calves were born between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. when the cows were fed once a day at dusk. There was no difference in the results if the cows were started on this feeding regimen the week before calving or two or three weeks earlier.

There are some implications to this information that need to be addressed. First, the physiological mechanism for this occurring is not well understood, however it is thought to be associated with intraruminal pressures, which begin to fall within two weeks of calving. By feeding at night, it causes the intraruminal pressures to rise at night and decrease during the day, which subsequently has a result of transitioning calving to daytime. Secondly, this can have an effect on human labor needs and calf mortality. When more cows calve during daylight hours, they are observed more frequently and can be assisted more effectively, if needed. In addition, calves are warmed by sunlight, and more likely to receive colostrum in the first 6 hours of life. The third thing to consider is that you likely don’t have your cows and your heifers together, so which group is it going to be most critical that you follow this feeding system. The answer is the heifers. They typically need more assistance than mature cows and if you can assist them in the daylight hours, the calf has a greater chance of survival.

This management system won’t transition 100% of your cows to calve during the day, but on average, research indicates that the change will be from about 50% calving during the day, if fed in the morning, to about 80% calving during the day, if fed in the evening.

Source: Adele Harty
 

cure

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I believe in this we started doing it about 10 years ago and I would say that we have around 90%of our heifers calve in the morning between 8 and 12 it does make it nice to have the sun on our side to help warm the little guys up
 

littlejoe

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cure said:
I believe in this we started doing it about 10 years ago and I would say that we have around 90%of our heifers calve in the morning between 8 and 12 it does make it nice to have the sun on our side to help warm the little guys up

Yup---us too. I lilke to feed just before dark, would do it even later---but it's nice to do it in the daylight, plus gives you a last look at cows in daylight.

I got a neighbor who runs a super operation in many ways---but he's one of them guys who's 'driven'----he gets his fed before the sun comes up-----maybe because he's been up all nite calving anyhow? :D
 

Lonecowboy

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it has worked very well for us too! but I've found you should start in advance - maybe 40 days or so before calving starts.

and feed a ration- if they have feed available 24/7 it defeats your purpose.
 

Wyoming Wind

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I know this works for a lot of folks, we have neighbors who feed in the evening and they says it works well for their cows. We have never switched to feeding in the evening; we feed our cows first thing after driving thru them in the a.m., they get their hay about 8am. We have found that in our 500 head we seldom have any cows who calve at night; quite a few who are just barely shelled out when we drive thru at sun-up, and the majority of the cows wait until they get a few bites to eat and then they can relax and calve. Not sure why they calve this way for us but it works! We also usually have 2 feet of snow or so still when we start calving in early April. Perhaps our girls like calving on our feedgrounds and when it is warmer? :???: Our heifers are a different story though :wink: !
 

Bullhauler

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I like to feed first thing in the morning. Then most calves are born between 5:00 and 9:00 in the evening which is the warmest part of the day. I never check at night anyway. If they can't calve on their own they get replaced by a cow that can.
 
A

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Bullhauler said:
I like to feed first thing in the morning. Then most calves are born between 5:00 and 9:00 in the evening which is the warmest part of the day. I never check at night anyway. If they can't calve on their own they get replaced by a cow that can.

Same here...Unless its storming I don't do any night checks either....I like to weigh and tag calves right after feeding- then usually check and repeat the process of tagging again before dark... And by feeding in the morning if I have any equipment problems or see problems with a cow- I have the day and daylight to handle it...
 

littlejoe

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a lot of yrs, we figure the difference between checking fairly often and basically not checking at all would of been about 5%---but we do get abnormal presentations, heavy sacks--some yrs more than others---occasional Really big calf, twins, failure to suck, not mothering, etc---can't save 'em all---but we can try.
 

WyomingRancher

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For those who calve later, have you observed when cows calve when turned out onto grass? Obviously you aren't checking very often, but have you made any general observations?
 

Justin

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several years ago i tried the feed by night/calve by day program, but didn't see much of a difference. but i have a nieghbor that says it works for him.

during calving, i check and tag at as soon as it's light enough out, then feed. i just prefer feeding in the mornings vs. evenings.

but since i've moved to late April/May calving, i don't really care when they calve. :)
 

eatbeef

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Works great but with the quality of my feed wagon i usually feed mid to late afternoon, then if i do break down i can have a chance to just unroll with pickup before dark. Feeding after dark has caused nothing but trouble. Had a cow one time get blinded by headlights and run straight into pickup and break her neck. Pickup wasnt even moving. I got out and there was 4 feet in the air.
 

Faster horses

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Wyoming Wind said:
I know this works for a lot of folks, we have neighbors who feed in the evening and they says it works well for their cows. We have never switched to feeding in the evening; we feed our cows first thing after driving thru them in the a.m., they get their hay about 8am. We have found that in our 500 head we seldom have any cows who calve at night; quite a few who are just barely shelled out when we drive thru at sun-up, and the majority of the cows wait until they get a few bites to eat and then they can relax and calve. Not sure why they calve this way for us but it works! We also usually have 2 feet of snow or so still when we start calving in early April. Perhaps our girls like calving on our feedgrounds and when it is warmer? :???: Our heifers are a different story though :wink: !

Same here. We never fed in the afternoon because we didn't feel we needed to. We had very few cows calve during the night. We checked them very
early in the morning and late in the evening and that worked well for us.
We had many calves betwen 5 am and 8 am.
 

gcreekrch

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Faster horses said:
Wyoming Wind said:
I know this works for a lot of folks, we have neighbors who feed in the evening and they says it works well for their cows. We have never switched to feeding in the evening; we feed our cows first thing after driving thru them in the a.m., they get their hay about 8am. We have found that in our 500 head we seldom have any cows who calve at night; quite a few who are just barely shelled out when we drive thru at sun-up, and the majority of the cows wait until they get a few bites to eat and then they can relax and calve. Not sure why they calve this way for us but it works! We also usually have 2 feet of snow or so still when we start calving in early April. Perhaps our girls like calving on our feedgrounds and when it is warmer? :???: Our heifers are a different story though :wink: !

Same here. We never fed in the afternoon because we didn't feel we needed to. We had very few cows calve during the night. We checked them very
early in the morning and late in the evening and that worked well for us.
We had many calves betwen 5 am and 8 am.

We've found a cow will calve any time between 12 AM and 11:59 PM regardless. :wink:

Feeding in the morning on the frost reduces loss of feed and gives us the whole day to get any other problems looked after once chores are done.
I don't relish the vision of trying to repair a tractor by flashlight and knowing there are more mouths waiting to be fed when I'm done. With only 2 people here sleep is available when time permits. We both prefer to get that time when it is dark.
Having cattle that don't generally need a mid-wife ( or husband :wink: ) helps as they are calving under the trees with as little supervision as we can give them.
 

Soapweed

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eatbeef said:
Works great but with the quality of my feed wagon i usually feed mid to late afternoon, then if i do break down i can have a chance to just unroll with pickup before dark. Feeding after dark has caused nothing but trouble. Had a cow one time get blinded by headlights and run straight into pickup and break her neck. Pickup wasnt even moving. I got out and there was 4 feet in the air.

Very sad, but kind of funny. Information like this sure doesn't come in the literature. :wink:
 

Shortgrass

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I used to drive truck, and we did chores in the afternoon/evening for several years. After I got off the truck, We feed first thing in the morning. I observed no difference in the time of day the cattle calved. I would guess the most common time is right after I feed. Cows will cream the hay, then head off over a hill to drop.
 

Shortgrass

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A management decision that did impact the bottom line was made 6 years ago. I started calving about a month later (end of March). More calves in daylight by virtue of longer days. Less feed. Increased weaning percentage (part of that is better breed up - cows recover and breed back better - closer to grass). Healthier calves (calves do not spend as much time on feedground, and scatter out better so they don't pass bugs around as much). Shorter calving season -easier. Weaning weight on steers dropped about 20 pounds, negligable on heifers, probably because I top heifers for replacements. Should have done it years earlier.
 

Hayguy

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I feed whenever I get something started and running long enough to do the job,usually that end's up close to evening :wink: glad that i have a university study now to back me up :lol: :lol:
 

Big Swede

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I agree with Justin, now that my cows calve later on grass I really don't care when they calve. Sorry Wyoming Rancher.

I do feed my heifers in the morning and it seems like we get a lot of calves during the day but it might be worth a try to feed later. I've considered trying it before but never did make the switch.
 

canadian angus

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If you all lived in our land and did the proper test you would see it works! It is cold and cows need feed, we did a test on 800 births, limit fed at late in the day. Big difference but you had to be careful on the bedding.

In those 800, we had 18 born between 12 and six. Some may laugh but it does work. If you bed hard and don't start six weeks before calving tit won't be noticed.

CA
 

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