A body condition score in cattle is a reflection of how well the animal is doing or to see if the animal has been meeting her nutritional requirements. Checking a cows body condition score is a crucial part of farming. Farmers must ensure that their is adequate nutrition in their cow herd. If a cow is not getting her required nutrients, then a farmer can’t expect her to produce top quality calves, come in heat or go back in calf.
Body condition scoring is like looking into a cows fuel tank to see how much energy reserve and condition she has. The condition of the cow effects the fundamentals of a cow for the year.
Farmers should score individual cows from 1 to 9, with 1 being thin and 9 being over-conditioned. Farmers should aim for a 5 or 6 at the time of calving so as to achieve timely rebreeding of the cow after calving. Now is a good time for farmers to check condition of cows in production season, when cows are either bred for spring calving or have autumn calves at foot. If they are scored now, it allows the proper management to be put in place through the remainder of the year.
It’s difficult for farmers to identify changes in condition happening throughout the cows, especially if they see the cows every day. Farmers should write down the score of their cows every second month through the grazing season as they should see changes through this period of time. Writing down the score of a cows condition is important along with the date, as it helps keep track of any changes over time. Farmers don't need to score all of the herd every month, if 50% are scored it should give you an indication of the herds condition. Pick different cows each time you score them, this way you’ll have scored them all throughout the year.
Around 90 days prior to calving is usually when a cow needs more energy to meet the increased demands for her unborn calf. At calving lactation and at birth, the cow will require an additional increase in energy. Another good time to score is weaning so there is time to change the cows condition prior to calving.
Scoring at these various points throughout the year can help farmers evaluate the effectiveness of their pre-breeding and pre-calving nutrition programs. If cows are lower than the target score of 5 at calving, they will generally take more time to rebreed, which will mean the next calf will be younger and lighter when it is weaned. Managing body condition is one of the things farmers can use to maintain or even shorten the rebreeding period.
A 2-year-old cow needs to have a little better body condition. A cow at this age is lactating, growing, while also still trying to maintain her body condition. It can often happen that her typical feed resources might come a little shy of what she needs. At this age they typically lose a little condition as their lactating.