What body condition score are your cows going into winter?

November 26, 2018


With the cooler temps slowing down outside activity and the holiday season upon us, I can honestly say my body condition score has probably increased in the past month. Thus, if our human scores are rising, our livestock scores probably are as well.  Specifically, I want to talk about your cows' body condition scores as we head into winter.

As a horse owner I have spent a lot of time body condition scoring my horse, but this time of year I feel it is essential to do the same with my cows. Most cows have the 2018 calf crop weaned and are now only eating for themselves or themselves + the calf inside them. Cold temperatures require a cow to use more energy and in return, can take a toll on body condition especially in younger cows. Thin cows, which are usually a body condition score of 4 or less, can produce less colostrum and have weaker calves. This leaves room for health challenges within a herd.

Ninety days prior to calving is the last opportunity to put weight on thin cows for a reasonable cost. Trying to catch a thin cow up after this time has increased costs and can be difficult. Depending on how comfortable a producer feels with body condition scoring, a number system of 1-9 can be used. 1 would represent a thin cow, 5 is ideal, and 9 would be obese. On a 1st calf heifer that hasn't reached her mature body, I recommend a body condition score of 6 as its better when going through calving and rebreeding. To make our 85-day rebreeding timeframe, these younger cows need some extra nutrients. If the number system is not what a producer prefers, cows can also be put into groups of thin, moderate and fat. While observing cows keep in mind that factors such a hair, whether its wetness or the different genetics, may off-set condition. If in doubt have a friend or veterinarian who doesn't see your cows on a daily basis help score or call your CVA feed sales specialist and our team would be happy to help body condition score your cows.

After scoring is complete and you are ready to form your nutrition plan for the winter months, be sure to follow the recommended amounts of protein and minerals your herd needs.  Corn stalks this year aren't the quality we usually see, and I have been recommending that producers start supplementing protein early with options of tubs, liquid or cubes. Besides these protein options, cows can be fed a ration designed by their local Central Valley Ag Feed Specialist using on-farm ingredients. Along with protein, mineral supplements such as a higher phosphorus product or Availa 4 mineral should be considered while cows are on stalks and moving into calving/rebreeding season. I encourage producers to take time and evaluate their cow herd in the next few weeks to ensure a healthy calving season this spring.

by Brandi Salestrom
Posted: 11/26/2018 9:15:10 AM by Kristin Petersen | with 0 comments