As part of this week's Beef Guide, we look at Body Condition Score assessment and those all-important targets.
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As part of this week's Beef Guide, we look at Body Condition Score assessment and those all-important targets.

Assessing the Body Condition Score of your cattle is paramount.

By achieving the required targets, the overall productivity of the herd is maximised.

If a farmer fails to reach these targets with their stock, implications result that limit and prevent the optimum performance and efficiency of the herd.

Suckler herds produce the majority of stock destined for beef production (though weaned animals are also sourced from dairy herds).

About 80% of suckler cows calve in spring, 20% in autumn.

There are four main questions that you should know the answers to:

  1. Why does the cow’s Body Condition Score matter?
  2. What are the feed requirements of the dry cow (in late pregnancy)?
  3. What are the feed requirements of the lactating cow?
  4. How do I manage the feed requirements of the autumn-calving suckler cow?

Why does the cow’s Body Condition Score matter?

Body Condition Score estimates the cover of flesh on the ‘frame’ of the animal. The range goes from 0 (emaciated) to 5 (grossly over-fat). Individual condition score units are usually divided into half and quarter scores. Body condition scoring provides an excellent guideline for feeding suckler cows at various stages of the production cycle (calving, weaning, housing, etc.).

Targets: Body Condition Scores

Spring Calving / Autumn Calving

Housing 3.0-3.5 / 2.5-3.0

At Calving 2.5 / 3.0

At Turnout 2.0+ / 2.0 to pasture

At Breeding 2.0- 2.5 / 2.5

How to Assess the Body Condition Score in suckler cows

  • Handle cows for fat cover on edge of loin bones (transverse processes).
  • Handle for fat cover on tail head and ribs.
  • At condition score 3.0 and greater, loin bones cannot be felt so focus on the tail head and the fat cover over ribs.

Body Condition Scores on 5 point scale

Score 1: Individual transverse processes fairly sharp to the touch & no fat around tail head. Hip bones, tail head & ribs visually prominent.

Score 2: Transverse processes identified individually when touched, but feel rounded rather than sharp. Some tissue-cover around tail head & over hip bones. Individual ribs no longer obvious.

Score 3: Transverse processes can only be felt with firm pressure. Areas either side of tail head have fat cover that is felt easily.

Score 4: Fat cover around tail head evident as slight “rounds,” soft to touch. Transverse processes cannot be felt even with firm pressure. Folds of fat are developing over ribs.

Score 5: Bone structure no longer noticeable & animal presents a “blocky” appearance. Tail head & hip bones almost completely buried in fat, & folds of fat are apparent over ribs. Transverse processes are completely covered by fat, & animal’s mobility is impaired.

What If: Body Condition Score is not at target level?

Spring Calving / Target

At Calving / 2.5

Implications

Lower, If BCS is less than 2.0 there will be a slower return to breeding, the cow will be weaker at calving and will produce poorer colostrum.

Higher, If BCS is higher than 3.0 the cow will have greater difficulty calving and re-breeding could be delayed.

Spring Calving / Target

At Turnout / 2.0+

Implications

Lower, A BCS below 2.0 will result in delayed breeding and possibly lower conception rate.

Spring Calving / Target

At Mating / 2.0-2.5

Implications

Lower, If BCS is lower than 2.0 there will not be enough time to recover for breeding with spring-calving cows.

Spring Calving / Target

At Housing / 3.0+

Implications

Lower, If BCS is lower than 3.0 winter feed costs will be higher

Higher, A BCS of more than 3.0 is unnecessary, wasteful


Information: Teagasc

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