With the dry period not too far away, it is time to think about body condition scoring.
Those of you who are enrolled in Fonterra’s animal wellbeing plan will know there is a section for body condition score, but it is an essential tool for any farm.
The four recommended times to body condition score are:
An important time of year, for body condition scoring, is now before dry off. The late lactation condition score should be done at least 100 days before planned start of calving (longer if you think you have skinny cows). This allows enough time to make changes to get to target for calving.
There are two forms of scoring:
Herd scoring which involves walking in the paddock with the herd and scoring about 70 cows to get a herd average score. This gives data for herd level decisions.
Individual scoring involves scoring every cow. To do this both the back and the right side of each cows needs to be visible to the scorer. Individual scoring is usually done in the cow shed either through the rotary bales or can be done by slowly running cows past the scorer one at a time. Individual scoring has the advantage for individual cow decisions such as an early dry off or preferential feeding for any cows that have a low BCS.
The target score at calving is 5 for cows and 5.5 for R3 heifers. The length of the dry period can be used to get cows to the correct condition by calving. The first 10 days after dry off cows are unlikely to put on condition and the last 30 days before calving they will not put on condition. Cows can put on 0.5 of a condition score per 30 days (if just on pasture) or per 20 days if high quality supplement is added. For example, a cow that is condition score 4.0 will need a 100 day dry period if on pasture and an 80 day dry period if added supplement to get to 5.0 for calving. It is a rough but useful guide that is based on cows getting a minimum of 9-11kgDM/day (depending on breed).
Using an accredited scorer will allow for accurate unbiased scoring. However, if you choose to do it yourself, please visit www.dairynz.co.nz/animal/body-condition-scoring/ which has some great resources to get it more accurate.