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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies

Body Condition Score your Cows

Posted by Travis Meteer - Nutrition

Cattle prices are looking good so far this fall. As we head into bred heifer sale season, things look to be heating up. Prices for heifer calves have been elevated and there is less of a slide on heifer calves. The market for breeding cattle has been and looks to be good. Producers are seeing incentives to build the herds back up.

While I don't discourage you from building numbers, I think it is important to evaluate your cow body condition scores (BCS). This will allow you to determine if you have the feed resources to build numbers. Body condition scoring the cowherd is one of the best investments in time you can make.

Right now is a great time to conduct a BCS on cows. Cows are at their lowest nutrient requirements in months 7 – 9 post calving. So if you calve in March, now is the lowest nutrient requirement. This gives you an opportunity to sort thin cows and put condition on with feeds that are less expensive. It makes sense to get these cows up to correct BCS (ideally 6) before calving.

If cows are in better body condition score at calving, they will be more likely to breed back and stay in the herd. I feel it is extremely important for producers to focus on keeping the cows they have in production just that... in production. Replacement costs are high and loosing cows due to poor condition is unacceptable.

Back in 1990, Pruitt &Momont showed that cows in a BCS of 6 & 7 at calving had greater than 70% probability of breeding back early and greater than 97% probability of breeding in a 60 day season. On the other hand, cows that were BCS 5 at calving had 60% chance of breeding early and 94% chance of breeding in a 60 day season. Now, cows that were BCS of 4 at calving showed a sizeable drop again. BCS 4 cows were 50% for breeding early and 90% in a 60 day season.

It is very important to have cows in correct BCS entering calving season. Now is the time to correct that. I also suggest that producers minimize weight loss after calving as this could also drag down conception rates. Conducting a BCS on cows now can help you identify cows that need a little extra energy and get them in correct condition for calving. Keeping your producing cows in the production system year in year out will lead to profit.

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