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April 20

The Extension Connection

By Megan Vig

                Below normal temperatures have been a challenge this calving season.  We have had a couple nice days but the taste of winter still remains.  It’s startling to think breeding season is right around the corner.               This week I share information on breeding and body condition scores from Kris Ringwall, Extension Beef Specialist.

Assuming a 283-day gestation, if the cow that calved on April 1 wants to maintain her position as the first cow to calve on April 1, she only has 82 days to recoup from calving, start lactating and be cycling the day the bulls arrive in the pasture.  Will your cows be ready to breed?

                Cow condition is the primary indicator of the success of the upcoming breeding season.  That is also the reason cattle producers are reminded, starting in the fall, to keep cows in fair condition.  This year presents a challenge, as we have experienced lower than normal spring temperatures, thereby increasing the maintenance needs of our herd. 

Cows with a condition score 3 or lower have little to no fat cover, with a prominent backbone, hips and ribs evident, and in the extreme case, are emaciated.  These cows are not candidates for rebreeding and if prominent within a herd, the herd needs to have a serious discussion with those who can offer help.

                Body condition changes gradually.  As cows add condition, they will advance from those borderline condition score 4s to a condition score of 5 or 6 if fed properly.  A good spring certainly will help initiate gain on condition score 4 cows, however we are waiting to see a good spring this year so pay attention to these cows. 

                Moderately conditioned cows, with a score of 5 or 6, do not have obviously visible ribs, and the backbone and hips are smoother.  The cows simply appear physically fit, and move well, alertly and contently.  These are the kinds of cows that should be present in cow herds across cattle country and reflect the ability of cattle producers to match cow type to the production environment. 

               Essentially, this cow is the product of good management and good genetics.  No one cow type fits all operations, but the evaluation of body condition prior to breeding does indicate how a producer’s cow herd fits into the producer’s environment.  Cows with body condition scores of 5 or 6 will assure a good pregnancy rate and are certainly worth the producer’s effort.

                Basically, producers need to evaluate the amount of effort and cost needed to maintain a 5 or 6 condition score.  At that point, producers can look for managerial or genetic changes to lower effort and cost.  National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has indicated a pregnancy rate benchmark for body condition score 5 cows should be around 86 percent, and score 6 cows should be 93 percent.  With grazing and turnout set to happen in the next couple of months, are your cows at the right body condition score? 

                Cows utilize available feed to recoup from calving, begin lactating and produce milk daily for the calf.  For the cows, thoughts of reproducing for next year will not be entertained until those two steps are done, which is why underfed and poorly nourished cows will not maintain a good annual reproductive rate.  If you have any questions on body condition score or concerns on how your calving season is going, please call the Extension Office at 797-3312.

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