November 22, 2009

Body Condition Score of Dairy Cattle - trying to learn

Elderberry when she arrived here last month.  (Sorry I don't have better.)

Elderberry today.

All bcs estimates or thoughts appreciated, here or on the forum.  Thanks y'all.


doc said...

Pictures do not tell the whole story, can't run your hands over the animal, but one thing that strikes me is her coat color. I believe she may be copper deficient. The sunburned reddish color on her ears and tail bone instead of a nice even auburn and the grayish cast to her body. I would definitely make sure she has a good dairy mineral supplement in her pen, preferably loose minerals, not a block. Make sure it has selenium in it too. Dairy animals often look like starving children with their big bellies and hip bones sticking out, but that's dairy character. Big bellies ruminate lots of grass and convert to lots of milk. Get a fecal sample done from a reputable vet and treat her for specific parasites if she needs it. Look at her mucous membranes, her gums and inner eye lids - are they reddish pink or pale pink? Pale = anemia, either from a nutritional deficiency or from parasites. Different breeds will carry different amounts of flesh over their ribs and hips. The appearance of thinness in a dairy animal doesn't mean they're underweight. A fat animal isn't converting food to milk. The score card is also specific to her stage of lactation. How long has she been fresh?

When you set up for a picture to score from, you want it from straight behind the animal, her legs set up slightly apart, her bag full. From the side, she should have her head held up level and her legs set up square. This is how the judge would look at the animal in the ring.

From the pictures, I can't see her udder, or the attachment, and that's like half of the score card.
I can't visually measure the distance between her pins, which outlines how easily she'll give birth, and how big her udder attachment can be . Even if her udder isn't perfect now, she can be judged for her ability to pass on her genetics, good or bad.

Overall, she's a balanced, feminine animal. She's definitely put on some weight and looks pretty good, very dairy. She needs her feet trimmed really bad, it's making her step down on her hocks really bad in the rear, if you don't correct that, her back legs will break down prematurely and she'll develop arthritis in her legs, eventually going down and not being able to get up. The rear feet and legs are 20 pts on the scorecard.

Without seeing her udder, I'd probably score her about 70 out of 100. Not a bad score. Do you have a copy of the score card? I can send you one.

Katherine said...

Doc, you went to a lot of trouble to type that out. Thank you so much!! I'm so ignorant, I didn't know there was a score card. Nor did I know the score is 1-100. I thought the score for body condition was 1-4. I guessed her a 1 last month and hopefully a 2 now. She should be a 3. She freshened last April. She is bred. She is 10. She's giving 2+ gallons a OAD. I will get loose minerals this week. How do you feel about kelp? Everyone is hot about kelp for cow minerals. Her udder attachment is really good.

Thanks a bunch Doc!! :o)

Anonymous said...

We nursed a cow through Bluetongue (you can read the whole story on the cow forum, I am tabitha there, and the cow's name was Nimue) and recovered her from that kind of condition like you are doing. You know what really did the trick? Kombucha. I don't have time to get into it right now but I will try on the forums later today... Anyway, our cow was also copper deficient after the illness and had her coat grow out with white bands... I wish I had more time. Like your blog! I will try to get back with you on the forums.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Could her halter be a little too tight maybe restricting her eating a little? I am surprised she isn't eating more than half a bale of hay a day, unless it is a huge bale - we use small squares and my cow will easily eat a bale a day plus when the grazing season is over.

She is picking up though, for the good, which is a testament to your good care :)

Katherine said...

Thanks for the idea Throwback. Her halter is rather loose, actually. But I would have thought she'd eat more hay as well. The pasture is super short. But maybe she's supplementing with a little grazing. Hopefully....

Katherine said...

This post gets a lot of hits so I'll update for anyone interested. Here in Jan. 2010 Elderberry is holding her condition. She is on (I'm guessing about) 15lbs of 16% dairy ration a day (split in two feedings.) 2 Tbs. Kelp, 1 Tbs Cod liver oil, and 400 IU Vitamin E twice a day is dressed on her grain. She has free choice hay. And she gets a big pot of soaked alfalfa cubes every evening. She's had mastitis 3 times, but seems to be firmly in the clear now. (Knock wood.) Her production has come up to three plus gallons a day. And she is keeping a layer of fat over her back bones. A small layer. But still, it all seems to be working for now.

I am still learning and open to all well intended advice.