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Working Ranch - November/December 2017

two circumstances that force animals to expend body reserves, or to have inadequate amounts of nutrients in the diet, causing BCS to drop. He recommends that producers know which defi ciencies commonly occur in their forage systems. For instance, cows on native grasslands are more likely to need additional protein and greater levels of phosphorus supplementation than cattle grazing well-fertilized, improved grass pastures. Mary Drewnoski, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist at University of Nebraska- Lincoln, reports there are several key times when checking and recording BCS are benefi cial, such as pre-breeding, weaning and especially at calving. “For bulls, the pre-breeding time is the most important time for their body condition scores,” Drewnoski explains. “Studies have shown bulls that have lost condition 60 days prior to their breeding soundness exam (BSE) often have very low BSE scores. They’re not fi t for breeding. Right before breeding, make sure you already have them in the right BCS… in the fi ve to six range. Keep them in a stable or increased plane of nutrition.” Cows with a body condition score of fi ve tend to have increased pregnancies, fewer calving diffi culties, and provide higher quality colostrum for their calves. They also have higher rebreeding success. Fat cows with a BCS between seven and nine usually have lower fertility, increased calving problems, lower weaning weights and poor milk production. “At calving you want to have your cows in at least a BCS of fi ve and fi rstcalf heifers a 5.5 or six,” Drewnoski advises. “It takes time to make a change in their body condition scores. Look at their BCS about 90 days before calving to make a decision about feeding these animals. It’s really all about getting them in proper BCS for breeding, but we can’t profi tably improve BCS while they’re lactating. After calving, it’s almost too late. You can do it, but it’s costly.” Drewnoski also recommends looking at the cow’s condition to help determine when to wean her calf. For example, if a pasture has enough forage, cows and calves may stay put for a while. If cows are becoming thin, it may be time to change pastures or provide additional feedstuffs. YEARLONG PROCESS First-calf heifers need extra attention. If they are not bouncing back after weaning, look at feed resources, and adjust supplementation as needed. Producers may decide to implement short-term calf removal or early weaning. Prior to weaning, cows utilize a lot of energy for lactation and sustaining calves, which are usually in reasonable condition. When cows lose body condition, Drewnoski says it is time to wean calves. Monitor calves’ body condition when backgrounding them. Calves that are too fat or fl eshy are discounted 48 I WORKING RANCH I NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2017


Working Ranch - November/December 2017
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