Cattlemen's Day, 2004; Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station contribution; no. 04-242-S; Report of progress (Kansas State University. Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service); 923; Beef; Night feeding; Reduce bird predation; Feedlots


During times of heavy infestations by birds, feedlots can have 25 to 30% increases in feed usage, thereby resulting in large economic losses. Because starlings, blackbirds, grackles, and other avian pests normally feed during daylight hours, we hypothesized that feeding cattle at night would minimize feed contamination and feed loss due to bird infestation. Crossbred beef heifers (n=96; 770 lb) were used to evaluate the effects of feeding at night on performance and carcass characteristics. Heifers were fed for 107 days during the months of November to March, when large bird populations were observed. Feed was delivered once daily at approximately 10:00 a.m. for heifers with continuous access to feed and 30 minutes before dusk for heifers that had access to feed only at night. Feed calls for heifers fed at night were managed so that no feed remained in the bunk at dawn, whereas the control heifers were allowed ad libitum access to feed. Daily feed deliveries per animal (21.51 vs. 18.15 lb for heifers fed continuously or only at night, respectively) were decreased by 16% (P<0.01) when cattle were provided access to feed only at night, but daily gain was not different. Feed efficiency was improved by 14% (P=0.05) with night time feeding, but carcass weights and dressing percentage remained similar. Overall, feeding cattle only during hours of darkness yielded similar growth performance compared to cattle fed continuously. However, feed efficiency was improved substantially, which we attribute to reduced theft by birds.


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