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Body Condition Score

The importance of condition scoring dry cows


The body condition score (BCS) of cows at the different stages of the lactation cycle needs to be monitored. The scale of 1–5 is used — 1 being skin and bone and 5 being over-fat. The three most critical stages to monitor BCS are at drying off (BCS 3), calving (BCS 3–3.25) and breeding (minimum of BCS 2.75). If 90% of the herd is within this range at each stage, there should be few issues at calving and high conception rates at breeding.


There are different issues associated with high and low BCS at calving. High BCS can have a negative effect on NEFA (non-esterified fatty acid) levels, BHB (beta-hydroxybutyrate) concentration and blood calcium levels.


NEFA levels are a good measure of negative energy balance post calving leading to metabolic disorders such as ketosis. Studies have shown that the ideal condition post-calving (BCS 3.25) produced less NEFA compared to fatter cows (BCS 4). This meant that cows in ideal condition lost less weight post calving. Further research shows that these cows will have a longer interval from calving to first service and depressed peak milk yield


On the opposite side, cows in low BCS (less than 2.5) are less likely to go back in-calf, milk yield is reduced and more inclined toward lameness.