A compact spring-calving season has many benefits, but it means that calves arrive thick and fast in a short period of time.
This has a number of drawbacks for farmers, including long hours, not enough labour and dealing with challenging weather conditions.
Cows can, and do calf at any time, day or night, which often makes it challenging for farmers to get a good night’s sleep.
A lack of sleep, combined with stress and an increased workload, can have a negative affect on a farmer’s mental well-being.
But, there are a few tools that can be used to decrease the amount of time you need to spend in the yard during the darkness, tending to a night-time calving.
Calving cameras have become a feature on many dairy farms as a way of monitoring cows during the night.
A lot of cameras can be accessed through a smart phone, meaning cows can be looked at from nearly anywhere.
If you already have a camera, you should ensure that there is adequate light, allowing you to see the cows.
The camera should also be set up in a position that gives you the best view of the shed and blind spots should be avoided, as this is most likely where a cow will calf.
An effective way of reducing night-time calving is to feed silage to in-calf cows close to calving at night.
Research from Teagasc Moorepark has shown that restricting silage feeding-time during the day can result in less night calvings, compared to allowing cows full daily access.
According to this Teagasc study, this practice reduced the number of cows calving between 12:00a.m and 6:00a.m from 25%, down to 10-15%.
It is also important to note that this practice is only really suitable where adequate feeding space is provided for all cows – which is at least 0.6m/cow feeding space.