For generations cattlemen have heeded the advice of their fathers and changed the time they feed their cows as calving approaches. It's believed by feeding in the evening, the majority of cows will give birth during daylight hours, easing human labor needs and boosting calf survival, says Adele Harty, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist, during a recent iGrow Radio Network interview.
"If we're feeding in the evening, more will calve during the daytime. This is easier on the calves because they get the sunlight, they're going to be more active, more likely to get up nurse, get that colostrum in the first hours of life and get a better start, Harty said.
Harty explains evening feeding is proven with research.
"Eighty-five percent of calves were born between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. if they were fed at dusk - in the evening - so it does help significantly and we've proven it with the research," she said.
However, the research is unclear why evening feeding works. Harty says it's believed eating and digestion increases the cow's internal body pressure, holding off labor for hours.
Harty notes evening feeding can be helpful for both mature cows and bred heifers. No acclimation period is needed so starting evening feedings one week before calving should be beneficial.
She reminds producers to consider the cow's additional nutritional needs during and after calving season.
"We have to remember that as soon as we calve, the nutritional needs are going to increase significantly because those cows are going to begin lactating and we need to make sure the feeds that we're providing are going to meet those needs," Harty said.