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How to Make Lambing, Kidding and Calving Happen During Daylight Hours

By   /  January 8, 2018  /  8 Comments

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Here’s a way to make your upcoming calving, lambing and kidding season a little less stressful: feed your pregnant stock every evening, right around dusk. They’ll spend the night ruminating and wait to give birth until morning.

That’s the advice shared in this video by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University (OSU) Extension Cattle Specialist. The “Konefal Method” is named after a Canadian rancher, Gus Konefal, who discovered that changing his feeding time led to more calves being born during daylight hours. Researchers at the Kansas State Experiment Station followed up with a five year study to give us all a better idea of what we could expect from a change to evening feeding.

Their results are similar to other studies. Dusk feeding meant that 34% of calves came between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Another 21.2% came between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., and then another 30% arrived between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. That left only 15% of the calves being delivered between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Of course your results may vary. When I did this with my herd of 35 does, they all kidded during daylight hours making my life much easier.

If your livestock are grazing or you’re feeding with pre-placed round bales you can get a similar effect, though not quite as dramatic, by feeding a supplement in the evening. Research at OSU showed that 70% of calves were born during daylight hours just from this simple change.

We hope this video from OSU will make your life easier!

If you do this, or have done it let us know the results in the comments below!

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  • Published: 6 months ago on January 8, 2018
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  • Last Modified: January 8, 2018 @ 10:02 am
  • Filed Under: Livestock

About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

8 Comments

  1. Angela Allen says:

    What if I DO want lambing during evening and overnight hours (between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.)? Normally, they are given hay 2x/day and supplemental grain in the evening around dusk. What can I do differently NOT have daytime lambing?

  2. Charlie says:

    I have done this for years with my sheep. 200 – 300 head flock. I feed the lambing groups at 9am and 9pm and get 98% of births at chore time or during the day. It is as if they lamb on an empty stomach, right before feeding time.

  3. Joan Schleh says:

    We do the opposite. When we first got into goats we were told to feed in the morning for daytime kids. So we feed in the morning and have had about a 98% daytime kidding rate. They wake up, eat some breakfast, then get down to the business of birthing. Our highland cows are strictly pasture fed. I have never had a calf born at night. But they also are not brought into a barn and are allowed to go where they want. Personally, I think there must be some farm law that the older animals teach the younger and that is that. Haha.

  4. paul turner says:

    I consistently have around 98% daytime calving. I feed in the morning and the first calves start showing up around 9. They are usually done by 4. After the first 20 days or so they will calve earlier and later, and my first nighttime calves will be born. What is my trick? First I calve in April. Second, coyotes. The coyotes live with my cows year round. When I have a cow abort at night there is nothing left by morning. As soon as there are a lot of calves, the earlier and later the calves come. Every year more calves are born within 200 yards of where I fed than the previous year. I am a hands free operation. The more I let them be cows the better cows they are.

  5. What are the percentages for the control group to be able to compare the improvement. If 15% are still calving at night with the evening feeding, how many would be calving at night when nature takes its own course?

  6. Bill Beaman says:

    Any of these studies include a comparison group of birthing animals fed early in the day to compare results? Maybe the offered video shows this info, it’s just too long for me to watch right now. thanks

  7. Bill Fosher says:

    A couple of bits of experience with sheep to add to this:

    When I was winter lambing 500 ewes, we noticed that a lot of ewes would give birth shortly after we fed them their concentrate. They had free choice access to round bales of forage. So we started feeding the grain midday, hoping we could get them to lamb when it was warmest.

    We were also careful not to turn on the overhead lights in the barn unless there was a true emergency that couldn’t be handled via headlamp.

    Our lambing times ended up distributing themselves around the day roughly as follows:

    Around dawn (+/-) 2 hours): 35 percent
    8 a.m. to noon: 10 percent
    Noon to 4 p.m. 45 percent
    4 to 8 p.m practically nil
    8 p.m. to 4 a.m 10 percent

    Staff were on hand 24/7. Night checks were conducted with a handheld flashlight or a headlamp. We did this for three years with pretty predictable results.

    By comparison, ewes lambing on pasture in May without supplemental feeding, no night checks, and no artificial light, had more lambs right around dawn and pretty much finished up delivery by 2 in the afternoon. This is best guesses, since I wasn’t in attendance the whole time and actually witnessed very few births.

    I started my pasture rounds at daybreak and the usual thing was to find a few lambs that were up and strong and had clearly nursed, and a bunch that were still damp and shaky, or not up yet, and a few ewes in labor. By the time I had tagged and docked the strong ones and checked for trouble with the ones that were in labor, it was usually time to start docking and tagging the ones that had been wet and shaky when I first arrived.

    With a group of 300 to 400 ewes on pasture, my busiest days involved 25 to 30 births, and I don’t ever recall one being born after about 3 p.m.

    I did this for almost 10 years with flocks ranging in size from 80 to 400 ewes.

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