Limit Night-time Calving

Posted in Category(ies):  Company NewsTipsDairyBeef

Can you change the time of day that cows/heifers calve?

Yes, by merely changing the time you feed your cows/heifers you can directly influence the time of calving. When you feed cows in the evening/night, you simply and most practically reduce the number of night-time calvings. 

How does it work? 

There are several benefits to eliminating night-time calving:

  • Calving difficulties are easier to manage during daylight
  • Assistance to be given early if neccessary, resulting in fewer deaths and also resulting in healthier more productive cows.
  • Daylight births give calves time to get dry, get fed (Colostrum/Biestings - 10% of calf's bodyweight) & treat their navel with iodine etc.
  • Farmers get more full (or fullish) nights sleep

Studies on rumen motility indicate that the frequency of rumen contractions is lower a few hours prior to calving. Pressure in the rumen begins to decrease in the last 2 weeks of gestation, with a more rapid decline during calving. It has been shown that night feeding causes pressure in the rumen to rise at night due to feed volume in the rumen from evening feeding and decline during the daytime.

Dara Walker, Castleview Gazelle ZAG off of a Shorthorn cross cow.

How much can feeding in the evening increase daytime calving?

A British study involving 162 cattle from 4 different farms compared the percentages of calves born from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. with cows being fed in the morning versus feeding in the evening. 57% of the calves born during the day were from cattle fed at 9:00 am versus 79% born during the day when cows were fed at 10:00 p.m.

A study done by Oklahoma State University with 1331 cows from 15 farms showed that 85% of the calves were born between 6:00 am and 6:00 p.m. when fed once daily at dusk.

Whether cows were started on the night feeding the week before calving started in the herd or 2 to 3 weeks earlier made no apparent difference in calving time.

What about on larger farms?

For larger farms, where it may be physically impossible to feed all the cows in the evening. Farmers should look at which animals will possibly require the most help - 1st & 2nd calvers. So feed these cows/heifers late while feeding mature cows earlier in the day.  

Diamond Anton FR2239 daughter

To maximise the effectiveness of late feeding:

Cows must be fed their daily allowance of silage or hay once/day and the amount fed should be completely consumed within 12 hours, so there is a balance to be stuck. 

Best of luck with the calving season. #calving18 

Posted on Tuesday, 6 February 2018  |  By Progressive Genetics
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