dairy cows the crucial periods are at calving and during early lactation. Achieving
correct body condition at calving is important in order to avoid calving difficulties
and losses.While in early lactation it is important to prevent excessive weight
loss when meeting the extra nutritional demands
The technique links together three major factors:
Condition scoring is a technique for assessing the condition of livestock at regular intervals. The purpose of condition scoring is to achieve a balance between economic feeding, good production and good welfare.
Condition scoring is particularly useful as an aid to dry cow and pre-calving management. The objective is to ensure that cows calve down safely whether they are on a controlled diet indoorsor outdoors at grass. Subsequently in early lactation the cow is under considerable nutritional pressure and body condition is a vital indicator of excessive weight loss.
can lead to metabolic disorders and other welfare problems and should be avoided.Most
trial work on cow condition has had the objective of showing the ideal condition
for maximum production e.g. linking condition at calving with milking potential
or fertility, but equally important is establishing the correct
The important stages of production are:-
Pre-calving (drying off) Condition should be fit not fat, and should be such to allow a moderate level of supplementation to prepare cows for early lactation.
At calving Cows should not calve in an excessively fat condition. Fat cows may develop fatty liver disease or ketosis and are more prone to milk fever, mastitis, lameness and infertility.
Lactation Dairy cows are under considerable nutritional stress and adequate
feeding is essential to avoid excessive weight loss. Excessively thin cows can
suffer discomfort in a housing environment such as cubicles.
At service Dairy Cows should not be in energy deficit by this stage as this may result in low fertility.
Scoring consistently requires handling cattle in order to assess body reserves but an overall visual inspection is also important. The scoring system is designed to cover all cattle but some allowance should be made for different breeds.
The scoring method involves a manual assessment of the thickness of fat cover and prominence of bone at the tail head and loin area.
You should stand directly behind the cow to score both areas and always handle the animal quietly and carefully using the same hand.
The tailhead is scored by feeling for the amount of fat around the tailhead and the prominence of the pelvic bones.
The loin is scored by feeling the horizontal and vertical projections of the vertebrae and the amount of fat in-between.
Assessment relies mainly on the tailhead but is refined by the loin score if both are very different. On a scale of 1-5, a score of 1 is extremely thin and a score of 5 is extremely fat. If possible assess the scores to the nearest half point.
Consistency in the technique is the key to good condition scoring.
A management programme that allows time for any corrective action to be taken is essential.
Scoring should be done at:
dairy cows, ideal condition at drying off should be close to that for calving
and ideally not more than half a score above.This fit not fat condition
avoids having to slim cows off as this leads to metabolic disorders. Maiden dairy
heifers require special attention as they are nutritionally on a knife
edge. An example of this is that the loss of one condition score equates to 15
kg liveweight in a heifer, versus 30 kg in an adult cow, and similarly when gaining
condition in mid-lactation, heifers need to gain 90
Body condition cannot be altered rapidly. Specialist advice should be obtained whenever there is concern about the general condition of the herd.
If condition is excessive, cows should be kept on bare pasture with straw to maintain rumen function. These animals should be closely monitored.
Feeding a high protein supplement pre-calving prepares the cow for lactation and also makes a convenient magnesium carrier.Thinner cows respond well to this technique.
Condition scoring is an easy technique to learn and can easily be applied even to groups of animals in the field. It allows essential management decisions to be made to enable high standards of husbandry to be achieved - and ensures costly welfare problems are avoided.
It is unacceptable to neglect or ignore any at risk thin, weak or excessively fat cows. It is the responsibility of all herdsmen or herd owners to take all practical measures to ensure that the body condition of all cows is appropriate to the production system employed.
Farmers are reminded to apply the provisions of DEFRAs Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Cattle (Ref: PB0074).
Milking Management seeks to ensure that the information contained within this
document is accurate. However, the Milking Management shall not in any