Body Condition Scoring... Have we heard it all before?

27th April 2021

By Lauren Mullan, ECV Nutritionist

The profitability of any suckler herd is determined by a healthy calf born to every cow every year within a tight calving pattern. Cow nutrition will have a huge influence on this, as healthy cows produce healthy calves and keep production costs down.  If the pandemic has taught us anything its that prevention is better than cure! 

  • A major cause of poor fertility is poor nutrition management.
  • Target condition score with calving in mind. 
  • Consider if grazing alone is supplying adequate nutrition.
  • Treat thin cows and first calvers to superior nutrition. 
  • Consider that bigger cows have a bigger maintenance requirement. 
  • Analyse forage at the start of the feeding season and react. Forage will change each year, from field to field. 
  • Analysis will allow for better control and balance of nutrition.  

With these points in mind, fat reserves are also important in a suckler herd. Fat reserves are an energy source that the body uses to maintain production when feed intakes are low. For example, when a pregnant cow is carrying a calf, her stomach capacity is reduced in late pregnancy. This results in less space for feed intake. As we all know, fatter cows   have  an   increased  risk  of  caesareans and calf      

mortality, similarly cows with low fat reserves can lack energy at calving and struggle with a slow labour. Targeting a body condition of 2+ at calving can help to minimise these issues (QMS, 2019)

Graph 1: condition scores for spring calving cows (QMS, 2020)

Working in partnership with an ECV nutritionist can help to improve your farms nutrition management.  Our team can assess your herd’s body condition score and then tailor a feed plan to suit your cattle’s requirements. ECV offer a forage analysis service free of charge. This allows for necessary changes to be made that are based on home produced forages. By ensuring that these steps are taken at the correct time, optimal nutrition should reduce calving issues related to nutrition. This will in turn improve calf health and growth.

Lauren Mullan, ECV Nutritionist
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