J. A. Thomas
Tired of night watch for calves, Well fix it!!
There are several studies out there about having cows calve in the daytime and not at night. From old wives tales to scientific study this has been around the cow calf world for years. After reading there are several things that stuck out to me, one that I don't have to go spread the feed out at night instead I can feed in a pen and just open the gate for them to get in, second that cows are known to calve within 3 hours of their previous birth so I can schedule my heifers to calve in the daytime, third that the later the feeding the higher the % of success, fourth they should keep that for their life and this method works best with drylot as grazing animals eat whenever they want.
So the method has been around and a guy named Gus Konefal, from Canada, is who it is named for. There have several university studies done on it since then with confirming evidence that it works. To implement it seems it would be a best case scenario to start with your first calf heifers. Several reasons include that they often require the most intense observation for calving problems so having them in a drylot situation would also accomplish that. Setting their calving clocks to calve during the day would make all their following years that much easier if they keep within three hours of calving. So put the heifers in a pen and then put feed out in a second pen, the last thing before going to bed ,as late as 10pm, go and let them into the feed.
I really like the suggestion of feeding in a separate pen and only having to open the gate to let the animals in. While doing the other reading I was thinking to myself, yea but who wants to be out after dark driving around and feeding cows. Kids likely in bed, so getting the wife out to drive a truck while I throw a bunch of hay is not my idea of night time relaxation. But voila, me walking out and opening a gate before going to bed and watching the cows all come through could be relaxing and then, pending warm weather, hearing them contentedly munching on hay should be a great dream setter. It may even be worth it for those with cattle on foothills to try, but with calving ease births on the rise there seems less calf pulling happening. However, taking the time to schedule heifers to calve during daytime might be worth the investment of more sleep later.
It was interesting to read that cows seem to calve close to the same time every year. With this it also seems it may be worth it to schedule the heifers to calve during the day, The investment early on might be worth the sleep afforded later on with an entire herd of cows that calve during the day. Of course this does mean an ongoing heifer feeding program every year. For me I think I prefer the idea of cows that just have easier births.
The last observation from my reading was that the later the feeding the higher the success rate of calving during day. So putting out the feed during the day and opening the pen very late at night would be the best way to achieve this and also increases the success rate of them calving during the daytime. The original observation used feeding twice a day but two feedings later in the day coincided with a higher percent of daytime calvings.
So far this year I am 100% day birthings on the cows I fed at night. I usually feed around 8pm and I had my earliest birth at 11 am. The others were all after lunch. This was really cool and we even managed to just miss two of them. One we was videoing and when we went to move actually missed the actual calf coming out. So we have up to the legs and head coming then about 30 sec miss and the hind legs coming out. It was so exasperating.