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Calving and Feeding


Given I was in my second trimester of my fourth pregnancy, I was going to try just about anything to reserve my energy stores.  Pukey and tired most of the time, I was a desperate woman. I had heard from a fellow Hereford cattle rancher near Abilene, KS through my midwife friend Cheryl that feeding your cows in the late evening could influence the calves to be born during the day.   After a little research, I would there was actually some science behind Dave's claims.

According to a report from the Michigan State University Extension website, the time of day your cow herd is fed during calving season has been shown to influence when calves are born. The data indicate that cows fed at night are more apt to calve during daylight hours when they can be observed closely. Gus Konefal, a Hereford breeder in Manitoba, was the first to recommend this feeding strategy. Consequently, it has been called the Konefal Method of daytime calving. 

This system involves feeding twice daily, once at 11:00 a.m. to 12 noon and again at 9:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. This regimen starts about one month before the first calf is born and continues throughout the calving season. By following this feeding program, Konefal reported that 80 percent of his cows calved between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Similar results were obtained in a study at Iowa State University. 

These two studies prompted Miles City researchers to conduct a three-year study on feeding time. Their results were not as dramatic as those of the earlier studies. Nevertheless, the percentage of cows calving between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. was consistently 10 to 20 percent lower for the late-fed than for the early-fed cows. Similar research conducted at the Brandon Research Station showed a 13.5 percent reduction in cows calving between midnight and 7:00 a.m.

Well, I couldn't get Carl to jump on the bandwagon to try this method and bless his heart, he would stay up until all hours of the night while the cows labored, letting me sleep until he felt he needed my assistance.  He was more of a bovine midwife than I was!  The latest we helped at a calving was 2am and it was a large calf that had to be pulled.  I wonder if I can convince him this year?

Updated 02/08/2001

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