As winter has finally settled in, it might be a good time to take a minute and look at the body condition score of your cows. Cow body condition score is a good indicator of the nutritional status of your cowherd. They range from one, very thin, to nine, obese, but the critical scores are four, five and six. A cow with a body condition score of four has the last few ribs (but not the backbone) showing while a cow with a condition score of five has no ribs showing and is usually considered ideal. A cow with a condition score of six has hooks and pins that are rounded in appearance due to fat cover. 

Good cow body condition is important to fertility, including rebreeding after calving, but also helps in providing energy for the stress of calving and in providing higher quality colostrum. Thin cows take longer to rebreed after calving, have more calving stress and lower quality colostrum.

A cow usually looses a condition score at calving so cows that are in a body condition score four or lower will be more difficult to rebreed.

The difference in body weight between each of these three scores is about eight percent or about one hundred pounds. Since cows are lucky to maintain their weight during winter, you should evaluate and supplement your cows, if necessary before calving. Cows on dry or frosted forage might need protein supplementation to meet protein needs and improve digestibility. Cows on very low quality forages or hay may need both energy and protein to regain the necessary body condition. Testing hay or forages will help you determine their nutritional needs.

Contact Agriculture Extension Agent at 767-5223, for assistance and advice.