Producers are encouraged to check Body Condition Scores prior to winter

While no one wants to think about it, winter is on its way and will bring with it a new set of challenges for producers in the agriculture industry.

Before the cold season arrives, cattle producers should evaluate the condition of their bred cows to ensure optimum performance all winter long.

Scoring the body condition of bred cows is the first step producers should take to begin evaluating their winter management.

“Body condition scoring (BCS) of cattle allows cattle producers to assess the level of fat reserves of cows during various production phases. When regularly used, this information can be used to formulate management and feeding decisions,” said Eric Bailey, State Beef Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension. “Body Condition Scores (BCS) are numbers on a scale used to describe the relative fatness or body composition of the cow. The scoring system in Missouri has a range of 1 to 9, with 1 representing very thin cows and 9 representing very fat cows. A cow with a BCS of 5 is said to be in average condition; however, descriptions of an ‘average’ conditioned cow vary. For BCS to be most helpful, producers need to calibrate the 1 to 9 system under their own conditions.”

Once producers have established where their cows are on the BCS scale, they can move forward with management decisions.

“Manage your mature cows for a BCS of 5-plus at calving,” advised Britt Hicks, Ph.D., Area Extension Livestock Specialist with the University of Oklahoma Extension. “If the cows are in BCS of 5 at calving, a slow gradual weight loss after calving is OK.”

Unless a producer’s bred cows are exceptionally fat, on top of being pregnant, supplementation through the winter will most likely be required to keep the cows in good condition, or to improve condition if it is less than satisfactory. Supplements in addition to hay or stockpiled pasture includes: custom or bagged feed/grain rations, hydroponically grown fodder, row crop residue, silage and brewers’ grains. Depending on the cow’s condition, though, winter supplementation does not always have to be a large financial burden on the farmer. “Nutritional requirements of the dry, mature pregnant cow (7 to 12 months after calving) are only slightly above maintenance and are lower than at any other period in the annual production cycle. Because of the low nutrient requirements, the dry, mature pregnant beef cow is able to utilize a lower quality forage than any other class of beef cattle,” said Dr. Shane Gadberry, associate professor of animal science with the University of Arkansas. “Feed that is only 6.5 percent to 8.7 percent crude protein and 46.8 percent to 56 percent TDN on a dry matter basis is sufficient for the dry, mature (1,100 pound) pregnant cow. This provides an opportunity for the cow/calf producer to cut winter feed costs by using feeds such as crop residues, mature grasses, low quality hay and other lower quality feeds. The greatest percentage of the growth and development of the unborn calf occurs during the last third of pregnancy. Therefore, feed quantity and quality must increase to ensure proper fetal development and rebreeding performance of the cow.”

Producers should consult with their veterinarian to establish a winter feeding program that fits their herd’s needs.

Klaire HowertonFarm Helpbody condition scores,evaluating cow condition,fall,winterProducers are encouraged to check Body Condition Scores prior to winter While no one wants to think about it, winter is on its way and will bring with it a new set of challenges for producers in the agriculture industry. Before the cold season arrives, cattle producers should evaluate the...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma