With the New Year also comes a new calving season for cattle farmers. Calving season is one of the most stressful times for cattle farmers. Their livelihood depends on live healthy calves being born and surviving until time to market the calves.
One way for farmers to ensure that more live calves are more born without difficulty is to be able to observe those cattle when calving. That is very difficult to do when no farmer knows when that favorite cow will go into labor. But there is one way farmers can manage to see more live calves born during the daylight hours.
Numerous research studies have been conducted that documented cattle fed hay in the afternoon or evening hours were more likely to calf in the daylight hours. In one study 1,331 head were fed at dusk daily and 85 percent calved between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. In another study over a five-year period in Kansas, 85 percent of those cattle also calved between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., when fed between the hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
I know that feeding every day is inconvenient and not practical for most farmers. But when hay is fed free choice in rings or feeders, it can still be done in the evening hours. Providing supplemental feedings in the evenings, such as hand feeding heifers, can lead to up 70 percent of calves being born between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. This is a great way for producers to manage first calf heifers, as they are ones that have the greatest difficulty calving.
This may not eliminate having to check cattle at night during calving season. However, anything that a producer can do to up the odds of have a live calf by being able to observe calving in the daylight is something they must consider.
If you have any questions about feeding to managing calving time or beef cattle production contact the UT Extension Office at 615-374-2421.