There is a lot that we (and our employees) learn about our cattle and their behavior merely from day-to-day interaction and observation. However, our herds don’t just shut down after dark. Read on to see how around-the-clock monitoring takes the mystery out of nighttime activity, exposing cattle’s clandestine behavior to minimize mistakes and drive higher profits.
People love watching footage of wildlife after dark. It is enticing to watch deer or coyotes captured on trail cams and gain insight into the hidden world of the forest after dark. Producers can use similar technology to see what their cattle are doing, learn from their actions, and manage behavior round the clock.
The PLT Bunk Management System enables producers to do this because it provides coverage for 24 hours a day, capturing nighttime activity that often goes unseen. We will provide a few examples to illustrate the power of continuous monitoring.
A great benefit of 24-hour coverage is to accurately show the time that bunks are empty at night. Feeders can use this information as a key input to feeding decisions, noting that cattle might be able to increase intake when night slicks are trending earlier or if they are peaking on intake when night slicks are trending later. Often cattle will consume the feed that is offered to them, and the only way to tell that they have “peaked” is by the time the bunks are empty at night.
The graphic at right illustrates that later night slick times (the black dots) preempt a fall in intake (the magenta bars). Ideally, a feeder would recognize the trend and temper increases to avoid a larger cut and a challenge to get the cattle back to maximum intake. In this case, the cattle are not pulled back until feed has been left in the bunk overnight.
The Evening Meal
Based on our observations of thousands of bunks at night, we can confirm some long-held beliefs about cattle behavior. One relates to night slicks.
Regardless of the time of year, cattle do indeed tend to come to the bunk before sundown for an evening meal. What the PLT system has been able to determine is that if a substantial amount of feed (say a bunk level of 10-25% of full) remains in the bunk at sundown, then that feed will still mostly be there in the morning.
That does not mean cattle won’t clean the bunk up prior to the morning feed. In fact, in the parts of the yard that are fed later in the morning, the PLT system will often “see” the cattle clean up any feed left over from the night before.
The chart at right illustrates these:
Sunrise or Delivery
The PLT system sees a pretty wide variation in morning behavior. And while there are exceptions to this rule, in general, cattle are “trained” to come to the bunk in the morning when feed is delivered, irrespective of when the sun rises. “Trained” is the operative word in the prior sentence.
If cattle have been fed at 6.30 am for the last 10 days, they will be waiting at the bunk at 6:30 am today. Perhaps in another post, we’ll look at the impact of delivery variations on cattle intake and behavior, and check out the different strategies our feeders have for dealing with their least favorite bi-annual event: daylight savings time.
Though it might appear counter-intuitive, the PLT system has seen more activity at the bunk at night in colder weather than in warmer weather, probably due to higher energy needs.
The two charts below show two similar sets of cattle at the same location, with basically no activity at night during the summer (top graph) and consistent bunk visits during the winter (bottom graph).
The Bottom Line
After sundown each day, there’s another opportunity to capture valuable information that tells the story of your cattle and how to improve your management. Thanks to our new technology, for the first time producers can capitalize on all 24 hours of the day to drive more dollars to your bottom line.
To discover how the PLT Bunk Management System can help you get the most from your team and your data after dark, visit our website at https://www.precision-livestock.com or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.