Now’s the Time to Put Body Condition on Cows

Save time and money on your cow herd this fall and winter, by doing one simple task—body condition score (BCS) your herd each month to monitor forage needs.

Producers often focus on the calves at weaning, but it is also a good opportunity to identify condition and health of your cow herd.

“The cheapest time to improve BCS of cows is right after weaning,” says Amy Radunz, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. “At that time cows are really efficient and maintenance requirements reduces significantly.”

“The challenge in some areas, as you get into December and January, you are also battling the increase body requirement needs of cold weather, mud and precipitation,” she adds. All of those factors require more calories for cows to maintain and regulate body temperature.

She advises producers identify the number of cows in each BCS category each month so they have a general idea of the overall forage needs, and can identify hard-keeping cows for culling. Click here to download a printable PDF of the scorecard that you can post on the dash of the feed truck, or use on your phone. cow body condition score card

 “It will be easier to put on weight in the first two months post weaning and then maintain from there.”

As calves are weaned, Radunz suggests producers identify cows in BCS 3 and 4. If possible, sort thin cows into a separate feeding area.

“If you can separate off thin cows from cows in adequate body condition, you can save some feed costs by tailoring feed needs to the animals that need an extra boost,” Radunz says. For the next month or two, focus in improving the BCS of those cows to BCS 5, and them return them to the herd if they are able to maintain that level of condition.

This same strategy can also be used to improve weight gain for older cows that will be heading to market, and allow producers to sell cows as the market offers the best price in their area.


The goal is to have cows in a BCS of 5 to 6 at both calving and breeding.

“It’s not so much that it’s needed for calving, but we want them at least at a BCS of 5 at breeding and most cows will lose body condition as long as the calf is at her side,” Radunz says.

Improving cow condition is extremely difficult while the cow is using increased energy during lactating.

“If producers wait to address BCS later in the fall and early winter, it will cost them more than improving that score in the first months post weaning,” Radunz says. Not only will it require a higher quality forage, but it will also require a greater volume of feed.

Amount of Energy to increase Body Condition Score in late gestation image


Latest News

Packing plant workers
Fired Tyson Managers: ‘Betting Pool’ Stories Distorted

Former Tyson Foods Waterloo, Iowa, plant managers dispute claims of how an "office pool" regarding COVID-19 was portrayed in news stories and deny it was about how many employees would contract the virus.

1 hour ago
Dream Lake with Hallett Peak in the background, at Rocky Mountain National Park.
Hi-Plains Researchers To Help Protect Rocky Mountain National Park

A Texas A&M AgriLife team will work with the Colorado Livestock Association and other stakeholders to refine and evaluate practices to reduce agricultural ammonia emissions into Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

12 min ago
AL Ranch
Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. Launches “MBA NextGen”

MBA NextGen updates the popular MBA training modules making it easier than ever for a new generation of farmers and ranchers to share their story and advocate knowledgeably for the beef industry.

8 min ago
Greg Henderson
Overall Meat Sales Higher In 2020

Meat sales - both dollar values and volume - were significantly higher in 2020. Those gains, however, came at the expense of a crippled restaurant and food service industry that may take years to recover.

9 min ago
Progressive Beef
Progressive Beef and Wendy’s® Advance Partnership

Wendy's announces 15% increase in percentage of beef sourced through Progressive Beef-certified producers in 2020; on track to meet goal of at least 50% this year.

14 min ago
Cattle and hog feeding
Profit Tracker: Cattle, Hog Margins Treading Water

Cattle and hog finishing profit margins were little changed from last week, with modest profits for cattle and losses for hogs. Beef packer margins declined again to their lowest mark since March.

8 min ago