Body Condition Scoring in Cattle
A direct link has already been established between the effect of nutrition and cattle fertility. Reproductive performances will be highly affected by the level of nutrition on which cattle are fed, as well as their body weight and body condition at mating.
Animals that will be affected by nutrition levels:
- Animals most affected by inadequate nutrition levels are heifers that have not reached puberty, and cows that are lactating.
- Cows that do not receive adequate nutrition postpartum will experience an increased anoestrus period. This could be both due to underfeeding and the increased nutrient demand experienced by the cow during lactation.
- Lactating cows that do not receive adequate nutrition will express a decreased milk yield, which in turn will reduce the growth rate of the calf and reduce the weight at which the calf is weaned.
- Animals that do not reach the appropriate weight will experience a delayed puberty, which in turn affects the productivity of a female calf throughout her life.
The link between body condition and cow reproduction
There is a “target” or “critical” body weight that each cow should reach in order for optimum conception, and cows that do not reach this point will experience a decreased conception potential, which affects their ability to reproduce. Likewise, an animal that is too fat will also struggle with reproduction, which emphasises the importance of an animal reaching the optimal body condition before being mated.
Body condition scoring
It is possible to evaluate the body condition of an animal through means of visual assessment. This is known as condition scoring, and a condition score is allocated to each animal on basis of the fat and muscle covering on its body. This scoring system runs on a 1 to 5 point scale, where 1 is very thin, and 5 is overfat. The optimal score for a cow at mating should be around 3. 25– 3.5.
1 – Under thin
The skeletal structure of this animal is very obvious, there is no visible fat on the body of the animal, and the level of muscle development is very low.
2 – Thin
The rear ribs and vertebrae of the animal is very visible. There is slightly more muscle definition and a very low level of fat over the skeletal structure.
3 – Good
The animal has a good level of muscle development on the skeletal structure and there is visible signs of fat on the body. The vertebrae and ribs of the animal are not visible, but the hip bones are visible.
4 – Fat
There is a fair amount of muscle and fat all over the body of the animal, and all bony protuberances are rounded. The ribs and vertebrae will not be seen.
5 – Overfat
It will be difficult to see the skeletal characteristics on this animal, as there will be a significant level of fat and muscle on the body. The pins and flanks of the animal may be lumpy in appearance due to the increased level of fat.
This scoring can also be used to estimate its nutritional status.
Animals should be kept at a good nutritional level for optimal reproductive performance. Contact your TA should you have any questions about the condition of your herd, or how to improve it.