News & Advice

Individual Body Condition Scoring – why it’s still worthwhile in late lactation

Apr 3, 2024 | Body condition score, Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare, Dairy Farm Reproduction, Farm systems

We are having a pretty amazing autumn so far, which combined with an impressive maize harvest means there’s likely to be enough feed around to do things a bit differently this season.

We don’t want cows to be too fat or too skinny going into next season, so now’s the time to set them up to be at target by calving. A crucial piece of information you need to be able to make the most of the available feed is each cow’s individual cow body condition score (BCS).


5 ways to use Individual Body Condition Scores from late lactation through to calving:


1. Dry off list

Know when each cow should be dried off, given the current feed availability, so she can get back to target BCS by calving. If you made a dry off list early this season but feed conditions have now changed, it might be a good idea to get in touch with your vet again to check if you need to tweak that list so you know which cows you can afford to milk on i.e. which cows are already close to target BCS and can therefore tolerate an extra couple of weeks of milking.


2. Cows in the correct mobs

You want to make sure the right cows are getting the right amount of food but how do you decide who gets what? Putting cows in the correct mobs based on BCS and calving date etc. will make a big difference and make sure feed is not being wasted.


3. Supplement v Grass: Which cows should get the extra maize that’s available?

We know that maize silage is more efficient at increasing BCS than autumn pasture is, therefore ensuring that the mob that needs to be gaining BCS is getting enough supplement is crucial. With the current price of maize silage and the present milk price there is a good Return on Investment (ROI) using maize as a supplement to get lighter cows (especially the R3s) back to BCS target.


4. Feed budgets

Many farms had a better 3-week in-calf rate this mating, so will have a faster calving in spring. Make sure this is taken into account in your autumn/winter feed budget by combining expected calving dates with individual body condition scores.

Vet Katrina Roberts and the farmer are reviewing the results. They are both looking at a laptop on the bonnet of a ute on the farm.


5. Building pasture cover for next season

A milking mob will be on a faster round than may be typical for autumn – can you build average pasture cover (APC) before calving while keeping some cows milking?

If you want to push the round out, you will have to feed some cows less grass and more supplement – which cows can afford to have less grass?


A cow’s condition score, her expected calving date, and her age are the 3 main cow-level variables that determine how much she needs to be fed in the winter. Without the individual BCS you may have the cow in the wrong mob wasting feed on a cow that doesn’t need it.


How does this information help make feed decisions?

In order to gain 1 BCS, a cow needs to gain approximately 30 kg of muscle and fat (not just gut fill!); by knowing how much body condition each cow needs to gain, we can organize our herd into mobs, and feed them appropriately.

The beauty of the individual body condition score information is that you’ll receive a report that enables you to make individual cow decisions. You can plan for mob sizes and preferential feeding options to increase or prioritise cow feeding right through until calving, which in turn will benefit milk production and reproduction.

We can do this job with drying off or when we are on farm lepto vaccinating – just let us know in advance so we can come prepared.

We can also help with doing a feed budget through until PSC (planned start of calving) or balance date. So, if you need help to juggle your supplements to get the best ROI, then we are here to help.


individual body condition scoring a dairy cow
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