Females that are thin at calving have a risk of decreased milk production and rebreeding issues

Body Condition Scoring (BCS) is a process that considers various physical aspects of livestock to determine nutritional deficiencies, health problems and improper herd management.

A body condition score is a number that represents body energy stores in a cow, based on muscle and fat. BCS is rated on a scale of 1 to 9, 1 being emaciated and 9 being very obese. It’s important to consider body condition at calving to promote longevity of the herd.

Body condition strongly influences productivity of a herd. If a cow has a high body condition score and is considered fat and obese, she will be more susceptible to metabolic issues, difficulty at calving, and risk of infection. But the reverse is also true of cows that are too thin.

Cows that are too thin may not breed back, or struggle during calving. Under condition cows may also struggle with milk production and lactation.

According to the University of Missouri Extension, the time to collect cow body condition score data is at weaning and calving. At weaning, cow body condition score should be 4 or greater because if it gets lower than that, it will take a lot of nutrition to get that cow back to her correct condition at calving.

“If cows are at a body condition score of 4 and the calf is big enough to wean, then go ahead and wean the calf because feeding cow and calf separately is better than trying to put a condition on the cow with a suckling calf,” Extension Livestock Specialist Patrick Davis has stated.

The best time to increase condition on a cow is while she is dry because of her low nutrient requirements. It is also the best time to identify cow condition score and determine a nutritional management strategy to get that cow back to the optimum body condition score of 6 before the next calving season.

Some research indicates that females that have a low body condition score at the time of calving, don’t rebreed well, even if they put the weight back on. According to a study performed by the Penn State Extension, body score is typically negatively correlated with dry matter intake. Essentially, cows that are overweight prior to calving, have a greater risk for low feed intake during the crucial time of calving. Which ultimately leads to less milk production, a decreased body condition, and low energy.

It’s also important to consider additional metabolic diseases, like ketosis. Ketosis could occur in this situation from the reduced intake of dry matter.

Failure to conceive is one of the most, if not the most, important factor contributing to net calf crop. According to a study performed by the agriculture department at Virginia State University, cows with a body condition score of 4 or less have drastically lower conception rates. There is a “sweet spot” per say in beef cattle around 6 for reproduction.

Below this, there is an increased risk of failure to cycle, failure to conceive, increased calving interval, increased days to estrus, and decreased calf vigor. If higher than a 6, around an 8 or 9, there is an increased risk of dystocia, impaired mobility, failure to cycle, and failure to conceive.

The body condition scoring system is an important addition to any livestock operation. It is fairly easy to learn and implement and will ultimately increase longevity and profitability of a cow-calf operation. Considering BCS at calving is crucial for lactation and rebreeding.

Kristyn RichnerFarm HelpBody Condition Scoring,calving,scoring system,spring calvingFemales that are thin at calving have a risk of decreased milk production and rebreeding issues Body Condition Scoring (BCS) is a process that considers various physical aspects of livestock to determine nutritional deficiencies, health problems and improper herd management. A body condition score is a number that represents body...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma