Quick Tips for Cattle Body Condition Scoring

Management : Cow & Calf

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Purina Animal Nutrition

There are several key times to pay particular attention to body condition scores (BCS) of cows and bulls.

Beef cattle experts offer these quick tips:

Body Condition Scores of Cows

  • Late summer/early fall -- Important especially in drought years or in systems where female cows are managed almost entirely on vegetative or dormant grazed forage. If cows are thin, early weaning should be considered. Non-lactating cows can pick-up condition by grazing forage alone or by feeding a small amount of supplement along with the grazed forage. If young cows are thin and grass in pasture is decreasing in nutrient quality, strategically wean calves.
  • Weaning -- Pay particular attention to your cows weaning their first calves. You may need to early wean their calves. Higher quality forage also may be needed.
  • 45 days after weaning -- Thin cows should be gaining back condition if cow type is matched with the feed resources.
  • 90 days before calving -- This is the last opportunity to economically get condition back on cows. Separate thin cows from cows in good condition.
  • Calving -- Target having cows in a 6 score (no ribs showing, fat in the tailhead and brisket and good muscle in the shoulders and hindquarters) prior to calving to optimize milk production and enhanced return to estrus. If cows are thin, you may want to modify your pre-calving feeding program.
  • Start of breeding season -- Target having cows in at least a 5.5 score (no more than 1 rib showing and good muscle in the shoulders and hindquarters) prior to bull turn-in, Artificial Insemination (AI), or Embryo Transfer (ET) for shorter postpartum interval and earlier conceptions. Thin cows may indicate a poor match of calving season to feed sources.

Body Condition Scores of Bulls

  • When pulled out of breeding pasture -- The nutritional program for bulls should be designed to have them at BCS 6.0 to 6.5 at the start of breeding season.
  • Three months prior to start of breeding season -- Adjust nutrition to increase, maintain, or slow down BCS.
  • When turned into the breeding pasture -- Continue to monitor during breeding season.
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