In this article, CAFRE’s Jack Friar looks at body condition scoring spring calving cows.
Body condition scoring (BCS) is an important and practical management tool that you can use to manage feed requirements over the winter period, writes CAFRE’s, Jack Friar.
The target BCS for a spring-calving cow is 3.0-3.5 at housing.
Ideally, the cow will have built-up body reserves from grazed grass which can be used over the winter period when feed costs are higher.
Restricted feeding should only take place if every cow can eat at the feed barrier at the same time.
Pen thin cows with a BSC less than 3.0 separately and offer them unrestricted access to moderate to good quality silage.
If cows are too thin at calving, the birth process takes longer; colostrum quality is lower, calves are less vigorous and are less able to absorb antibodies.
Milk yield is also reduced, and thin cows may take longer to start cycling after calving and are, therefore, less likely to maintain a 365-day calving interval.
Changes required to body condition score should be gradual and ideally done around mid-pregnancy.
The aim is to have the fat and thin cows back on track 50 to 60 days before calving.
Avoid significant changes to body condition in the last month before calving.
Excessive feeding during this time can significantly increase the weight of unborn calves without improving body condition.
Autumn grazing management: Increasing the number of days at grass
In this article, CAFRE’s Richard Gibson provides some autumn grazing management tips for dairy farmers.
The focus of autumn grazing management is to increase the number of days at grass and set the farm up, during the final rotation, to grow grass over winter and provide grass the following spring.
While grass quality is lower during autumn, it still has a role in reducing feed and housing costs.
The rotation length should be 30 days for mid-September and pushed to 35 days from October 1st.
On October 1st, 2022, if you have 100 cows grazing 35 hectares on the milking platform, to have a 35-day rotation, allow the herd 1.0 hectare/day.
If this does not provide enough grass, then supplement with silage and additional concentrate.