Body Condition Score
A cow's BCS provides a reasonably accurate measure of her energy reserves, and BCS targets at key stages of lactation have been identified to optimise dairy production systems. These targets are based on research studies undertaken in New Zealand and internationally over the last 30 years.
Body condition score affects dry matter intake, milk production, reproduction, and cow health and welfare. In addition, BCS in early lactation may affect the sex of future calves and the productive and reproductive capacity of heifers yet to be born.
Irrespective of the farming system or cow genetics, milk production is optimised when mature cows calve between BCS 5.0 and 6.0. That said, the production benefits decline with increasing BCS and the risk of metabolic health disorders at calving is greater, such that increasing BCS beyond 5.0 in mature cows and 5.5 in first and second calvers cannot be justified. Recommended calving BCS targets are a compromise between wanting cows with sufficient energy reserves for milk production, while not being so fat as to compromise cow health.
Condition score targets
Body condition score at calving
Body condition score at mating
If the BCS of any animal falls below 3 (on a scale of 1-10) at any time, urgent action must be taken to improve condition.
Assessing BCS in your herd
You can learn how to BCS your own cows here.
Alternatively, you may employ someone to do it for you. In response to inconsistences among BCS assessors, DairyNZ established the BCS Assessor Certification Programme. More information about the programme is available here or, to find a Certified BCS Assessor in your click here.