With winter hair coats, it can be difficult to gauge cow body condition, an appraisal of the fat layer on an animal that serves as an indicator of the nutritional level of the animal. One time to check condition is the when the hair is wet and lying down. Another way to check body condition is when the cows are in the chute.

“If you run your hands over their sides or down their back and can feel their ribs or backbone sticking out, they are not in good condition,” says Kent Haden, vice president of livestock operations for MFA Inc. of Columbia, Mo. Typically, cows need to have a body-condition score of 6 going into the winter. Check their condition now and provide supplements as needed to prevent problems during the next breeding season.