It’s time for spring calving. Beef cows normally calve from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and watching cows 24 hours a day is labor intensive and basically impossible for most ranchers. However, if you could change your management to increase the chance of cows calving during the day, it would at least be easier to monitor these cows.
Feeding cows at dusk is a simple management change that has shown to result in more cows calving during the day. It doesn’t completely prevent cows from calving at night, but a greater percentage will calve between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. than would normally be the case. This makes finding and checking on the cows easier as it’s usually warmer and you can give aid if needed, making sure the calf is born without any problems, breathing normally, and responding to stimulation from the mother. Calves should be up and nursing within a 4-hour window after birth.
There have been many studies on this concept, but the largest study was conducted in Iowa on over 1300 cows on 15 different farms. All of the cows were fed at dusk and 85% of the calves were born from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Even if you are in the middle of calving season, you can start feeding your cows at dusk now and can expect more cows to start calving during the day in as little as a week. This should result in saving more calves. Ideally you would start this feeding practice 30 days before calving season begins, but you don’t have to wait for next year to see if this strategy works for your herd.