by Sandy Johnson, livestock specialist
Body condition scoring is a numerical system to assess nutrient reserves of livestock. The system used in the U.S. beef industry is a scale of 1 (extremely thin) to 9 (obese). At weaning and before cold weather sets in, body condition scores can help determine what management is needed to ensure cows have sufficient nutrients to produce high quality colostrum and have adequate reserves to rebreed in a timely fashion post-calving. Notice nutrition during this time point influences TWO calf crops, doubly important.
Don’t fall prey to the busyness of life and put off this key measurement. K-State Research and Extension has developed two tools to help you remember to take this measurement and record it.
The first is the Management Minder which you can use to develop a year round production calendar that will provide reminders on your smart phone or other electronic device. The calendar is specific to your calving and weaning schedule so management items selected truly fit your operation. You aren’t likely to forget when calving starts but you might forget to allow enough time to have colostrum supplements on hand before they are needed. Reminders to body condition score cows can be set for calving, breeding, weaning, and 90 days prior to calving. Observing the body condition score change over time can be very useful in evaluating how well resources match nutrients demands.
To give you an easy means to score cows and a place to record it, a Body Condition Score Record Book has been developed. It’s presence in your pocket or on the dash board can serve as another reminder to body condition score cows. Ask your local county extension office about one or look for them at an event sponsored by the KSU Beef Team. This record book is intended to serve as a score pad as you drive or ride through a group of cows. Individual cows show up as a mark in the appropriate body condition score category. If you happen to miss one or two that are not in sight, scores of the remaining animals will still provide the big picture. The book provides a place to record body condition of different groups of cattle on multiple occasions.
Don’t rely strictly on your memory to assess cow body condition score, score cows on a regular basis and make a record of the date and results. If you are scoring cows individually because they are being checked for pregnancy make sure to calculate an average score and record it as well. Use individual scores for sorting or culling. Use group average body condition scores to evaluate the past and plan for future nutritional needs.