Many farmers believe they need to body condition score (BCS) only a portion of a mob, commonly 70 cows, to form a clear picture of what is going on. While this is acceptable for general monitoring, we need more detail to make informed decisions when determining dry-off management.
If you BCS only a selection of your cows, you may miss the opportunity to lift condition in some animals and revert to maintenance for others. As a result, a significant proportion of your cows may end up too thin or too fat. This has negative implications for their future production and reproductive performance.
It is important to BCS all cows in late lactation so you can cater to your cows’ different needs by drying them off in mobs and managing them accordingly. This will ensure they’re able to gain the required condition to reach calving targets (BCS 5.0 for mixed-aged cows and 5.5 for first- and second-calvers).
Reaching a compromise
Reaching BCS calving targets will help set your cows up for a successful lactation. The targets are based on New Zealand and international research from the past 40 years. They’re a trade-off between achieving the greatest energy efficiency for milk production and maximising reproductive efficiency, while reducing the risk of metabolic disease, uterine infections and mastitis.
Achieving the targets requires careful planning at dry-off. To learn more about how to do this, read our article titled ‘Picking her dry-off date on BCS’ from Inside Dairy February 2020
Know the score
Want to take your herd’s BCS assessment a step further? We recommend you use a certified BCS assessor.
DairyNZ’s BCS Assessor Certification programme provides assessors with regular training and calibration to help ensure condition scoring is standardised across New Zealand. By using a certified BCS assessor, you can be confident the information you receive is independent, accurate and consistent.
For more information on the programme and for a list of certified assessors, go to dairynz.co.nz/bcsprogramme
Also, visit dairynz.co.nz/BCS to learn more about BCS strategies.
When making dry-off decisions, I need to BCS only a selection of my cows.
It is important to BCS all cows in late lactation.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy March 2020