Body Condition Scoring

Dairy cows in early lactation are in negative energy balance until their ability to eat catches up with the calorific requirement for milk production. This period of negative energy balance lasts for approximately 8 weeks depending on the system. During this time cows will ‘milk off their back’ (use their own body’s resources to supply the nutrients required to maintain their level of milk output) and lose body condition. Cows are scored from 1-5 (1=very thin, 5=grossly fat) and those that lose most body condition score (BCS) in early lactation have poorer conception rates.

For every ½ of a condition score lost, conception rates fall by approximately 10% compared to the herd average. Cows in the UK tend to converge on a minimum BCS of 2 ¼ irrespective of their condition at calving. This means that cows which calve down in too high a BCS will have compromised fertility as they lose the most body condition in early lactation.

Cows calving in too low a BCS are also likely to suffer poor fertility. This is because it takes 2-3 months for eggs to develop and if cows are energy deficient at any stage during this period the viability of these eggs is compromised.

Therefore, managing BCS can be a valuable way of improving your fertility and making efficient use of your feed resources.

We can train you in how to score your own cows, and provide you with charts to record the data. Alternatively we are able to carry out scoring on your farm alongside other visits such as TB testing.