Nighttime Feeding, Daytime Calving

Feb 07, 2022

Spring is only six weeks away. With it comes great anticipation of the new year’s calf crop. Studies of calving times have shown a connection between daytime calving and nighttime feeding:

Gus Konefal, a rancher in Manitoba first developed this feeding method after he discovered that 80% of his cows calved between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m when they were fed later in the day. Konefal’s method included a twice a day feeding, with first feeding between 11:00 a.m. and noon and second feeding between 9:30-10:00 p.m.

Similar research at Iowa State University using the Konefal feeding system, but only feeding one time per day at 4 p.m., starting 2 weeks prior to the expected start of calving, resulted in 82% of cows calving between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. In addition, calves born between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. (75% of the 24 hour day) was 91%. Therefore, only 9% of calves were born outside the window when traditional calf checks are performed. An important thing to note is that when heifers were separated from the data set and analyzed, 90% of the heifers also calved in this same time frame. A survey collected from 15 beef producers in Iowa and Missouri reported feeding once daily between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. resulted in 85% of cows calving between 5 a.m. and midnight. Compare this data to cows not on the Konefel feeding system in the same herds that were calving 50/50% day and night.

This method is more labor intensive, but has the benefif of warmer conditions for calving during the day. Also, it is easier to see the cattle if checking a pasture or large lot. Some disadvantages are not being able to fill hay rings to feed over extended timespans, or being able to feed while the ground is still frozen. As with all things, you have to pick what works best for your operation.
Good luck with your calving this year!