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Can feeding time affect when calves are born?

3/25/10 (Thu)

Can feeding time affect when calves are born?

The time of day that cows are fed during the calving season can influence the time when calves are born. Cows fed at night tend to calve during the daylight hours (when you have an opportunity to watch them more closely). This method of management was developed by Gus Konefal, a Manitoba Hereford breeder. The system involves feeding twice daily, once at 11:00 a.m. to 12 noon and again at 9:30 to 10 p.m. This practice should be started about one month before the first calf is born and continue for the duration of the calving season. Konefal reported that using this regime, 80 percent of his cows calved between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Iowa State University research indicated similar results.
Scientists at USDA-ARS, Miles City, also conducted a three-year study on feeding time. Their results were not as dramatic. However, the percentage of cows calving from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. was consistently 10 to 20 percent lower for the late-fed cows compared with the early-fed cows. Similar research at the Brandon, Manitoba research station indicated a 13.5 percent reduction in the number of cows calving between midnight and 7:00 a.m. However, research conducted in Indiana with dairy cows showed no particular benefit to night feeding.