Time Change Affects Livestock Routines

Be sensitive to your livestock’s daily routines as you switch back the clock for daylight saving time.

by Dani Yokhna

Silhouette of rooster of farm fence at sunrise
Courtesy Comstock/Thinkstock
Doing daily livestock chores according to the sunrise and sunset can offset the effects of daylight saving time in animals.

Over the weekend, most of the U.S. “fell back” for daylight saving time. First adopted in the United States in 1918 in an effort to conserve fuel used to produce electricity during World War I, this biannual time adjustment has experienced its fair share of criticism over the years. While some say it saves energy and gives us more daylight for outdoor activities, like exercising, running errands or working on the farm, others say that it throws off humans’ circadian rhythm. As debates over the effects daylight saving time ensue, it’s important to remember that the time change can also impact our animals.

Just as humans have internal clocks, so do livestock. Many times livestock routines are formed by human activities, and psychological and physiological stress can occur if those routines are disrupted. For example, if a cow is used to being milked at a certain time each day and suddenly the farmer arrives an hour sooner, the cow will not feel that it is the proper time to be milked and may resist. Much the same, if the farmer waits an hour later, the cow will be more than ready to be milked because in its mind, the farmer is “late.” Physical effects can occur, as well, as the cow’s udder will continue to produce milk and pressure will build up due to the delayed milking time.

Other animals experience effects of daylight saving time, too. Livestock accustomed to being fed at a certain time will be disappointed when they visit their feeder only to find it empty. Just as humans can get grumpy when hungry, animals do as well. They don’t care if your alarm clock, your microwave, the DVR, your cell phone, your wristwatch, the laptop, the iPad, and the morning news all agree that time has changed, they just want to eat breakfast!

Some simple ways to avoid livestock issues surrounding daylight saving time include gradually adjusting farming schedules so that animals do not experience a dramatic change in routine or simply “following the sun” instead of the clock when partaking in your daily farm activities. Just remember, when the rooster crows, it doesn’t check the clock first.

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