In beef cows, it is well known that nutrition is highly related to fertility. It should come as no surprise that body condition is also related to fertility since body condition is a reflection of fertility.
A system for scoring body condition in beef cattle has been developed, with a scale of one to nine. Low numbers are thinner cows and high numbers are fatter cows. A body condition score (BCS) of five to seven is considered optimum for reproduction.
A cow with a BCS of seven probably has more condition than is necessary and it is not advisable to have a high percentage of cows in the herd with that level of body condition. On the other hand, a BCS of four is considered borderline and it is not advisable to have a high percentage of cows in the herd in this condition.
Studies have confirmed that cows with a BCS of five, six or seven will have a higher conception rate than those with a BCS of three or four.
It is very difficult to increase BCS after calving. A great proportion of the energy consumed by the cow that has calved goes for milk production, not fat deposition.
Since the critical time for BCS is breeding season, but you are probably not going to increase BCS after calving (just before breeding season), the BCS at calving is very important.
If you are a winter or spring calving herd, evaluate BCS now to make sure you are on the right track to have the optimum BCS at calving. If the cows are in poor condition, you may need to make some nutritional adjustments.
Here is a description of the nine body condition scores. One through three are considered thin, with one being severely emaciated with all ribs and bone structure easily visible and the animal is physically weak.
A score of two is similar to one, but the animal is not weak. A three is very thin, with no palpable or visible fat on the ribs or brisket. Spinous processes are very apparent.
A four score is considered borderline, with the ribs and pin bones easily visible. Individual muscles in the hind quarter are apparent.
Scores of five to seven are optimum. In a five score, ribs are less apparent than in a four, but the last two ribs can be felt easily and there is some fat over the pin bones. Individual muscles in the hind quarters are not apparent.
A cow with a six score has a smooth appearance throughout, with some fat deposition in the brisket and individual ribs are not visible. On a seven, the brisket is full and tail head and pin bones have protruding fat deposits. The back appears square due to fat.
Scores of eight and nine are too fat. With an eight, the back is very square and there are large protruding deposits of fat on the tail head and pin bones.
The brisket is distended with fat and the neck is thick. A nine is similar to an eight, but taken to greater extremes.