Babcock Institute for International

Dairy Research and Development V f Dairy
Essentials
University of Wisconsin-Madison
n

12) BODY CONDmON SCORES
Michel A. Wattiaux
Babcock Institute

BODY Energy 28 --
26 -- 4 Energy Required
CONDITION 24 --
to 22 -- 4 Energy Ingested
The amount of
- 20 --
' '

m
body reserves a Z .
18 -- Increasing risk oP; .
-
'

x .

cow has at 8 16 --
2 14 --
calving has a
12 --
strong influence 10 _L
on potential (voidable Energy Stored
complications at 2 4 -ri FEEDIN! a
:<=
'
/ as Body Fat
2 --
or immediately 0 [Trrr? is™.
after calving, milk -
2 --
Energy
production and Balance
.
4 __ Energy Balance =
reproductive effi- -
6 -- Energy Required - Energy Ingested
M
1 -8 -
ciency for the .

10 --
-

upcoming lacta- 0)
z -12 -L.
tion. Cows that
are too thin have: 5
Incroasmq risk of
. Reduced milk
4
production Body
due to lack of Condition 3
Score
adequate body
2 Risk of
reserves to use
111111
in early i
lactation;
Cow 70 -r
. Increased inci- Fertility
dence of cer- . 1

60 --
c
tain metabolic .
2

diseases (keto- " 50 --
sis, displaced o

abomasum, fc40-
etc.); Period of

. Delayed 30 -J-
Service(s):
f
resumption of DAYS OPEN PREGNANCY (282 days)
(70-105 days)
heat cycle
after calving. Week of lactation 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 36 40 44 48 52
Days from calving 30 60 90 120 140 168 196 224 252 280 308 336 365
Figure 1: Energy balance of dairy cows in early lactation
240 Agriculture Hall, 1450Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706 USA, phone: 608-265-4169, babcock@calshp.cals.wisc.edu 45
Dairy Essentials - Reproduction and Genetic Selection
On the other hand, cows that are too fat . Depression of voluntary dry matter
have: intake in early lactation that
. More complications at calving predisposes the cow to:
(difficult calving); - Increased incidence of certain
metabolic diseases (fat cow
Tailhead Hook bone syndrome, ketosis, etc.);
Pinbone \ Vertebrae - Reduced milk production .

Thus the goal is to have cows in "good"
condition at calving-not too thin and not
a too fat. Body condition is a subjective
assessment of the amount of fat, or amount
of stored energy, a cow carries. Body
0 condition changes throughout the lactation
cycle. Cows in early lactation are in
negative energy balance and losing body
condition (mobilizing body reserves). For
every kilo of body weight mobilized,
Figure 2: Identification of some body enough energy is supplied to support the
parts used to assign body condition scores production of seven kilos of milk. Early

Body Vertebrae at Rear view (cross- Side view of the line Cavity between tailhead
Condition the middle of section) of the between the hook and pinbone
Score the back hook bones and pinbones Rear view Angled view
1
Severe
underconditioning

2
Frame obvious
ft
3
Frame and
covering
well balanced

4
Frame
ne not
/!>
-o-
(fJL
-
as visible
as covering

5
Severe 02 (tjL
overconditioning

Figure 3: Body condition scores (Adapted from A.J. Edmondson , I.J. Lean, CO. Weaver, T. Farver and G.
Webster. 1989. A body condition scoring chart for Holstein dairy cows J. Dairy Sci. 72:68-78.)
.

46 The Babcock Institute
12 - Body Condition Scores
lactation cows should not lose more than Table 1: Effect of body condition score (BCS)
about one kilo of body weight per day. In losses in early lactation on conception rate
contrast, cows in late lactation are in Loss in BCS Conception rate
positive energy balance and gain body Less than 1 unit 50%
From 1 to 2 units 34%
condition to replenish the body reserve lost
More than 2 units 21%
in early lactation. Thus the "ideal" body
condition changes over the stages of a
lactation (Figure 1). because it indicates severe lack of adequate
nutrition (negative energy balance,
BODY CONDITION SCORE (BCS) Figure 4a). A body condition score of about
THROUGHOUT LACTATION 3 0 (Figure 4b) should be typical of a cow
.

recovering body reserves in mid-lactation.
Body condition score is a tool used to In late lactation and during the dry period,
adjust feeding and management practices
a body condition score of 3.5 may be the
in order to maximize the potential for milk most desirable.
production and minimize reproductive
disorders.
Recommended body condition scores at
A body condition score is assigned by various stages of lactation are:
'

visual observation of the cow s rump
Calving 3.0 to 3.5
area-primarily the region delimited by the Breeding 2.5
hip bones {tuber coxae), the pinbones (tuber Late lactation 3.0 to 3.5
ischii) and the tailhead. The amount of Dry period 3 0 to 3.5
.

" "

covering over the vertebrae of the back is
also used in giving a score (Figures 2, 3 This body condition score gives the cow
& 4). Cows are usually ranked on a scale sufficient body reserves to minimize the
from 1 to 5. Extremely thin cows are risk of complications at calving while
assigned a score of 1 and extremely fat maximizing milk production in early
cows, a score of 5 (Figure 4). lactation. As milk production declines in
A body condition score of 1.5 one or two late lactation, cows gain body weight
months after calving is not desirable efficiently. Overfeeding concentrate is a

-

m mm
m

15
. 3 45 .

Figure 4: Examples of cows with body condition scores of 1.5 (A) 3 (B), and 4.5 (C)
,

University of Wisconsin-Madison 47
Dairy Essentials - Reproduction and Genetic Selection
common management mistake. Cows fed These cows are likely to have difficult
too much concentrate in the later part of calving and to develop other disorders (fat
lactation tend to become obese (Figure 4c). cow syndrome).

48 The Babcock Institute