I am very guilty of a herd with very long inter-calving periods (days between calves). A productive cow should yield a calf every single year. And as a beef producer, this should be one of our main goals.
The low calf yields in my herd were due to limited bulls. It is recommended for every 25 cows, 1 bull is required.
The poor nutrition resulting to lower body condition scores can have low calve yields. This is really unnecessary and with sound knowledge and good management practice, the problem can be eliminated.
Body condition scoring (BCS) is a management tool that can be used to evaluate the nutritional status of cattle. The body condition is directly related to the fat cover of an animal. The score also gives an indication of the energy reserves of an animal. In cattle, the highest priority is used for maintenance, growth, lactation, fetal growth, breeding and lastly body reserves which has the lowest priority.
BCS is very important in beef production because it influences reproductive and growth performance. How? Cows and heifers in thin body condition at calving time are slower to rebreed, produce less colostrum, may not have sufficient nutrient reserves for maximum milk production and wean calves that are under weight.
Over conditioned cattle are also not recommended. It is expensive and unnecessary to over conditioned cows and heifers. It can also result in conceiving problems as females do not come on heat easily. Under conditioned females do not come on heat easily.
Body condition is a more reliable indication of nutritional status of a breeding herd. The females in the herd should fall within a range of 5 to 7 from the beginning of the calving season throughout the breeding season (to rebreed sooner). If scores are less than 5, one should adjust forage and feeding programs, and consider weaning sooner. Remember a cow with a good BCS can rebreed sooner after calving, consequently reducing inter-calving period.
The following are ideal times to body condition score in cattle:
When calves are weaned
60 days prior to calving
At the beginning of the breeding season
BSC is done visually, with scores ranging from 1 (extremely emaciated) to 9 (very obese). This images are represented in photos 1-9. There are several key places to assess body condition in beef cattle. Overall body fat should be evaluated along with fat cover over the tail head, ribs, and shoulder, and in the brisket (see figure below).
Body condition score is related to pregnancy or conception rate. BCS 4 = 50% , BCS 5 = 81 %, BCS 6 = 88%, BCS 7 = 90%. Farmers attain BCS of 5 through 7 to yield more calves.
Look out for next post on how to maintain good BCS in cattle.