Know the score when it comes to body condition
Body condition scoring (BCS) of dairy cows delivers impressive results
Body Condition Scoring is a tool that most farmers think is a great idea, but very few actually do it. Why not? This week I've interviewed three farmers who are all body condition scoring (BCS) their cows and reaping the rewards.
What is body condition scoring? BCS is the appraisal of cow fat reserves through a combination of handling and visual assessment.
It allows the subjective assessment of thin and fat cows regardless of frame size or breed on a scale of 1 to 5. (1 = extremely thin, 5 = extremely fat). There are three main areas of the cow we look at when body condition scoring; the short ribs, the long ribs and the pins. A guide on how to body condition score is available from your local Teagasc advisory office.
So why aren't more farmers body condition scoring their cows? One of the main reasons is that it is a job that doesn't have a deadline, the cow won't die if it's not done and there are no penalties if it isn't done, and for many farmers, if it doesn't tick one of these three boxes then it is "a job for next week".
However, for most, it keeps being put off until next week. Another reason is that running cows through the crush can be a big ordeal on farm arms lacking good cattle handling facilities.
The three farms interviewed are all using BCS and each of them are showing fantastic fertility and production figures. However, body condition scoring on its own is useless unless you actually use the information to good effect and that is where all three farms excel.
Ideally the entire herd should run through the crush at least twice in the year, and visually assessed another three to four times in the year. All herds should be assessed in the next two weeks to identify cows for early dry off and assessed again when the entire herd is dried off to identify cows for special treatment during the dry period.