Cow Body Condition At Calving | Living the Country Life
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Cow Body Condition At Calving

There’s a strong link between a cow's body condition and her reproductive performance

Before she gives birth, a cow should be in the best condition possible. Body condition scoring a pregnant cow gives you a good estimate of her nutritional status and energy reserves. Calf vigor at birth, the immune system response, and colostrum production are all closely related to the condition of cows both at calving and during the breeding season. On a scale from one-to-nine, a score of one is emaciated and a nine is too fat.

Dr. Tim Parks is the beef cattle technical services manager for Merck Animal Health. He says a pregnant cow in the three-to-four range is considered in poor condition.

"We get much below that we’re going to start to see some early loss of calves, abortions, and maybe some stillborns as well. So, we really want to be in that 5-7 frame," says Parks. "Seven is getting a little heavy on some of them, but it really depends on the breed we’re dealing with and some other factors."

Maintaining body condition or achieving an adequate body condition in cows doesn’t happen overnight, so staying on top of her nutritional plan is key.

"Really making sure that we’re meeting requirements with our nutrition, especially with vitamin, mineral, protein energy levels coming into that time frame. Having roughages tested to see what the actual quality is," he says. "It’s pretty easy to say that this brome’s 7% protein, but why don’t we pull a sample, find out what it is, so we can then make some better decisions about what we may need to do to supplement."

Choosing a calving season that’s most compatible with your forage program will help maximize cow condition and reproduction. Also pay attention to pasture quality and stocking rates.

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