During recent farm visits and while assessing the requirement of herds for the autumn/winter period I have been paying a lot of attention to the body condition score (BCS) of these cows. We’ve created this guide on body condition score management during the dry cow period to help you with your herd as it is a very important time of year.
Importance of Body Condition Scoring in Cows
Recently I attended a seminar where this topic was discussed and addressed by Veterinary Consultant Martin Kavanagh, in great detail. According to Martin Kavanagh many cows are too fat with larger Holstein cows carrying a lot of internal fat. They can put on internal fat in the dry cow period without appearing to become fatter. Martin stressed that body condition scoring is a crucial exercise that should be practised more precisely on farms and can only be done physically and using proper measuring charts.
Helps Prevent and Cure Illnesses
Hence, it is critical that cows are dried off at an optimum BCS of 2.75-3.00. The overall aim should be to have cows dried off in good condition so a minimal gain will be achieved in the dry period. I recommend a maximum gain of between 0.25-0.5 of a BCS over the dry period to reduce the incidence of metabolic disorders. Dairy and beef cows with excess body condition score are more likely to suffer from metabolic disorders such as ketosis, milk fever and retained placenta.
Feed for Cows to Improve Body Condition Score
To avoid such problems I advise all farmers to take a proactive approach and get forage analysed to identify the quality and mineral status of forages. In particular, I think it is crucial that a mineral analysis is completed to identify for any abnormalities. Following on from this, a diet during the dry cow period can be completed with confidence. Have a look at some of our dairy products that will help lower the chance of associated problems at calving.
Housing for Cows to Enhance Body Condition Scoring
Ideally before housing of cows I recommend that they are separated based on their BCS, date of calving and then grouped into sheds. However, this may not be the case on all farms and one diet will be offered to all. In this situation careful on-going monitoring must be practised, paying particular to body condition gain, ensuring adequate feed space, lying space, drinking space and cubicles.
In summary, many anomalies in the management of the dry cow period can be addressed prior to drying off. The aim should be keep diets simple, group on body condition score (BCS) basis, offer minerals that complement a forage sample analysis and every two weeks measure and record body condition score.
If you have a questions or need advice on body condition scoring, why not ask myself or one of our agri experts and we will be happy to assist with all elements of dairy herd management.
- Body Condition Scoring