Get cows back in shape while it is cost effective

Recently weaned cows are perfect candidates for increasing body condition if need be.

In a previous article from Jim Krantz, he talked about body condition scores (BCS) of cows and where they typically should be at different stages of production. In this article I am going to discuss how to increase the body condition of thinner cows before winter.

Producers in the north have a narrow window to easily put condition on a cow before the harsh winters set in. This is following weaning and before the negative temperatures and forty mile an hour winds get here.

Cows should be sorted into different groups in the fall to maximize forage qualities and reduce costs. To be able to sort by every score is not possible so sorting body condition score 3's and 4's, 5's and 6's, and anything above a seven, would be a good sort. The most concentration would be on the 3 and 4 group because these are the ones that need to move up. The 5 and 6 group just needs to meet their requirements plus the fetus and they will be fine. The 7 and above group are the ones to utilize that lower quality roughage or just keep out on grass.

Below is a chart (found at that shows how much energy is needed to move to the next body condition score depending on the size of the cow.

Energy Reserves for Different Body Sizes and Condition Scores of Cows. Amount of Energy Needed to Move to the Next Higher Body Condition Score.

Get cows back in shape while it is cost effective

*The numbers in the body of the table represent the energy required to move a cow from the next lower BCS to the present one. Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle, 7th Revised Edition, 1996. National Academy Press, Washington, DC. 

Let's run through a quick scenario for the BCS 3 and 4 cows; 1200 lb. cow moving from a 4 to a 5 BCS. The cow would need a total of 226 Mcal of energy beyond her daily maintenance needs. This 226 Mcal of additional energy could be supplied by dried distillers grains which has 1.22 Mcal of NEm per pound. If 4 pounds of distillers grains were fed, it would take about 46 days to elevate the cow's body condition from a BCS 4 to a BCS 5. To determine approximate numbers using different feedstuffs this equation can be used:
(Mcal Needed to Move to the Next Higher Body Condition Score (226)) / Lbs. of feed (4) *Mcal NEm of feed (1.22) = number of days needed to be fed (46 days on feed)

Other feeds may be used but keep in mind a cow can only consume so much. As the NEm goes down the more the cow has to consume to reach the desired target within a given time span.  A cow must meet its "normal" daily nutrient requirements before they are able to gain weight.

Get cows back in shape while it is cost effective

By sorting cows according to body condition a producer can feed accordingly to the amount of weight needed and quality of feedstuff. Thus cutting costs and saving much needed higher quality forages for calving and breeding. One final thought to keep in mind for the cows that are in good condition; as the range goes dormant and forage protein drops, it is a good idea to supplement a small amount of protein for utilization of that low quality forage.

Source: Heather Larson