Dairy Cattle Body Condition Scoring BCS
This post we want to discuss how to adjust nutrition this winter to meet your cow’s needs to be successful in the spring breeding season. Last week we discussed body condition scoring (BCS), if the majority of your herd is below a BCS 5 you need to up their nutrition over the winter months. Here is how:
- Start early, cows need between 40-55 days to increase 1 BCS. You should aim to have the majority of your cows at a BCS 6 by calving.
- Evaluate the current quality of forage in your pasture. If your pasture does not have any cool-season grasses or a low quantity of available grazing, providing a high-quality grass hay or grass/alfalfa mixed hay will ensure your cows keep their condition over the winter months.
- Determine if supplementation is needed. If cows are failing to gain or losing BCS during the winter, then supplementation of energy and protein is the next step.
- Strategic supplementation of energy and protein during late gestation can help your cows keep body condition as their nutrient requirements will increase as the calf grows. Requirements can be met by using soybean meal (source of true protein) or a molasses-based supplement with urea (non-protein nitrogen source).
- Separate first calf heifers from mature cows. First-calf heifers have higher energy requirements than cows and should be kept separate to prevent competition to ensure they are receiving a ration that meets their nutritional needs. Typically, first calf heifers struggle with rebreeding due to low energy reserves, this can be counteracted with proper nutritional management practices prior to calving.
- Reevaluate nutritional supplementation on a monthly basis. Making a habit of evaluating cow BCS will allow you to determine the best strategy of either increasing or decreasing supplementation.