Cattle

The Role of Body Condition Score in Getting a Cow Rebred

Management : Cow & Calf

Management : Replacement

Christina Hayes, Ph.D.

Product Manager, Beef Technical Solutions

When newborn calves arrive, cows put their reproductive cycles on hold. Cows are recovering from pregnancy and building up energy reserves in preparation for their next breeding cycle.
 
On top of that, once a cow calves her energy requirements increase by 20-30 percent due to lactation.
 
The challenge then becomes, how do you get a cow rebred?
 
Body condition score plays a big role.

Body condition score at calving matters

Too often, we don’t pay attention to body condition score until it’s too late. Calving and rebreeding is no exception.
 
Rather than trying to recover body condition score post-calving, focus your resources on optimizing cow body condition score at calving. Research shows that for cows that calved with a body condition score of 6:
  • 98 percent showed estrus by day 40 of the breeding window
  • 90 percent were confirmed pregnant by day 401
The same research shows a drop in body condition score to 5 resulted in just 80 percent of cows in estrus and 65 percent confirmed pregnant by day 40.

Be proactive with body condition score

Once cows get behind, it’s hard to catch up. Cows at a body condition score 3 at calving need to gain upwards of three pounds per head per day to be at a body condition score 5 before breeding, which is difficult to do in most real-world conditions.2

To help cows breed back quickly and support calf health, target mature cows to calve at body condition score 6. A quality, year-round supplementation program, including mineral and protein supplements, ensures cows have the nutrition they need to thrive and gives them a nutritional foundation to achieve ideal body condition score.
 
Body condition scoring your cows at key times allows you to evaluate whether your cows are on track or need nutritional adjustments for successful calving, weaning and rebreeding – during this season and future seasons.
 
The 90-day period after weaning is the best time to pay close attention to body condition score. By about 45 days after weaning, cows will pick up condition if feed management, including the quality and quantity of feed resources, matches cows’ needs. Forage supplementation might be needed to help cows recover.

Start before it’s too late (and costly) to improve body condition score

At three months before calving, it becomes harder to add body condition economically. A cattle nutrition program designed to keep cows in good condition at calving will be increasingly important.
 
Typically, it’s too late to add condition on a thin cow post-calving. But, it’s never too late to evaluate your pre-calving nutrition. A quality, year-round supplementation program ensures cows have the nutrition they need to thrive, no matter the forages available.
 
Does your nutrition program stack up? Find out with a Proof Pays feeding trial
 

Rasby, R. J., Stalker, A., and Funston, R.N. Body condition scoring beef cows: A tool for managing the nutrition program for beef herds. Retrieved Nov. 2, 2017 from: http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/ec281.pdf
2 Witbank, 1982