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Working Ranch - November/December 2017

Aiming for the best body condition score S avvy cow-calf producers check body condition scores BY GILDA V. BRYANT (BCS) before breeding, calving and weaning to determine their supplementation strategies. This easy-to-use management tool helps them monitor their animals’ body condition without scales or complicated formulas. Shane Gadberry, Ph.D., Professor of Ruminant Nutrition at the University of Arkansas, reports that cows kept in ideal body condition wean more total pounds than cows calving in moderately thin or poorer body condition. He says producers may monitor their animals’ body condition regularly, but not necessarily make a conscious effort to score them. However, a written record of BCS over time can help troubleshoot production problems that may occur during specifi c times of the year or with different age groups. “When managing cattle for PHOTOS BY TERRYN DRIELING condition, it is important to understand that nutrient requirements differ between very young heifers and mature females,” Gadberry reports. “Requirements increase as nutrients are needed for fetal development during gestation, for milk production, and - for the young female - growth. One of the most diffi cult challenges with nutritional management is when the cowherd has all types co-mingled. Consider managing fi rst-calf heifers separately in a co-mingled herd. These females are usually undernourished, and less likely to breed back to have their second calf within 365 days. Managing fi rst-calf heifers separately can help with the economics of correcting nutritional defi ciencies. “If I were to pick a fi xed point for recording BCS, I would fi rst choose at calf weaning. This provides an opportunity to sort cows into management groups, if some need to regain condition before calving. It is important to monitor body condition at calving and through breeding to adjust supplementation if needed.” Gadberry also likes to record BCS at the end of winter. He fi nds that even with supplementation, cows do not winter well, especially if there was an exceptionally cold, wet winter. He says that too often it is simply a result of not using the right supplement. Cold, wet weather and drought are EDITOR: Looks like a whole bunch of high 5’s and sixes in this photo. 46 I WORKING RANCH I NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2017


Working Ranch - November/December 2017
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