Now is the time to body condition score your spring-calving herd and sort off the thin cows so you can give them a little extra feed.

March calving cows have about 90 days left to put on body condition before calving. The last 90 days before calving is your last opportunity to cost effectively put condition back on thin cows.

Body condition at calving is an important factor affecting rebreeding performance of spring-calving cows. The longer you wait to put condition back on cows, the more difficult and expensive it becomes.

Cows calving in a body condition score of 5 or higher rebreed more quickly after calving than cows that are in a lower condition. Pregnancy rate increases as body condition at calving increase to a score of 5.

Not only do cows in a body condition score of 4 and thinner have reduced chances of rebreeding, but they also produce less colostrum and their calves have lower immunoglobulin levels. This means they may be less able to fight off disease. On top of that, calves from thin cows are less vigorous and slower to stand.

So, thin cows have a lessened chance of rebreeding and give birth to weaker calves. These are two good reasons to sort off thin cows and give them extra feed. Managing spring calving cows in two groups for the 90 days before calving allows you to better manage your feed resources. You can save feed by not overfeeding the cows that don’t need it.

For more in-depth information, see the recently revised NebGuide Body Condition Scoring Beef Cows: A Tool for Managing the Nutrition Program for Beef Herds (http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/sendIt/ec281.pdf.) It describes the 1 to 9 of body condition scoring, complete with pictures and details for assigning scores.

Nebraska Extension also has Android (http://go.unl.edu/bcsappandroid) and Apple (http://go.unl.edu/bcsappios) versions of a smartphone app to help you learn to assign body condition scores. 

Additionally, more information on the role of body condition and body condition scoring are available at http://beef.unl.edu