(Dr. Dan Thomson) Folks, thanks for joining me on DocTalk today. It’s going to be a great show. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here from Kansas State University. Our guest today will be Dr. Chris Reinhardt. We’re going to discuss body conditions scores in cows in your herd and understand that when we have negative body condition scores how that can affect production. Thanks for joining us.
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(Dan) Welcome to the show. (Dr. Chris Reinhardt) Thank you Doc. (Dan) Folks, Dr. Chris Reinhardt he is the Extension Feedlot Specialist here for the state of Kansas. He is a Ruminant Nutritionist and a Professor over in the College of Agriculture for the Department of Animal Sciences and industry. We’re going to talk about the nutrition of cows and specifically some of the things that can go wrong, some of the things that can go right, and then the tools to measure. (Chris) Yes, sir. (Dan) Let’s jump into it. We as body condition score folks, you’ve been through I don’t know how many wet labs to determine the finish on the cows or fat cattle or different things to that nature. We can use it as a tool to also to gauge some things that are going right or going wrong within the cowherd. (Chris) Exactly, it’s a really effective tool, it’s very low tech, very easy for ranchers to assess but yet it’s really valuable in determining the nutritional status of your cowherd. (Dan) What are some of the things, not necessarily just jumping into the body condition scores, but if we don’t have proper nutrition, what are some of the things that can be economically crippling to a cow/calf producer? (Chris) I like to break things down, you taught me years ago big rocks, little rocks and sand. One of the biggest rocks in terms of nutrition and in terms of making sure that cow stays productive year round, year after year, is her energy status. Obviously protein, minerals, vitamin, nutrition, all very important. But if that cow is starving to death, the right mineral balance isn’t going to help at all. Energy is really the first thing, the big rock the really important thing we’ve got to take care of especially going into fall, winter months. We got to make sure she’s got enough energy to get through the winter. (Dan) When we start to go out there and use body condition score, obviously that is something that’s going to tell us where these animals are, heading into the winter nutritionally. (Chris) Exactly, it’s about energy, we’ve got to meet the other nutrient demands but the first thing that’s going to fall off if that cow calves in a very thin body condition of lacking energy, her body is just going to say, “You don’t need to cycle back, you’ve got to take care of yourself and maybe have a little milk for the calf that was just born.” Reproduction is going to be the first thing to fall apart and that cow is not going to be ready to breed back. (Dan) We can tell in October, November when we are in there preg checking that if we don’t have the proper nutritional status of our herd. It’s not that we are not going to have calves hit the ground because those calves are going to be born. It’s whether or not that cow will have the ability to lactate and take care of it, but then, will she be able to re-breed. (Chris) Exactly, we need to step back and look at this as a holistic event. We’re looking at a year on year, year after year, and to keep that cow productive, we got to start taking care of her long before that calf hits the ground. (Dan) Perfect. Well, we’re going to take a break and when we come back we’re going to talk more about body condition scores, how we determine different body condition scores in the cows. In the later segments how we can correct some of the things if we notice that something’s not right. Dr. Chris Reinhardt, Dr. Dan Thomson from Kansas State University, back after these messages.
(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk, Dr. Dan Thomson with Dr. Chris Reinhardt we are over here at Kansas State University where we are talking today about body condition scores. Let’s just jump right into it. Tell me a little bit about the body condition scores system and how it’s derived? (Chris) Good idea. Normally we consider the body condition score system for beef cows is a nine-point scale with one through nine. One being completely emaciated, barely able to walk, hopefully you’ll never have to see one of those. Nine being yield grade five obese, barely able to walk also. You’ll probably never see one of those out on the ranch either. Realistically, we’re normally talking three to seven is what we’ll see commonly on ranches throughout the U.S. Three being a cow that’s just too thin, she’s noticeably thin, we can see virtually all of her ribs, we can see her backbone in detail, she’s lost all the muscling throughout her shoulder and her round. She is very thin, she can still motivate, she can still probably have a calf, maybe even a healthy calf, but everything else is going to drop off and suffer. Move up to a four, we can see most of her ribs, but we can see most of the muscle structure of her round. So she’s thin, she’s carrying no excess fat whatsoever, but she’s thin and she’s under condition. We move up to a five, five is our target. That’s where we’d like to see our cows at the time of calving. We can maybe still see a rib or two, maybe vaguely make out the backbone, but we can see that she is carrying just a little bit of body condition especially going into winter. But at calving time, if we know that she’s still got just a little bit of fat at time of calving, she’s healthy and she’s going to be able to cycle. As we move fatter than that into the sixes, which cow we really can’t even see the muscle anymore. She’s just covered with just a thin layer of fat, very healthy cow, not unproductive whatsoever. She was just probably more efficient than the rest at converting feed. Once you move into a seven, you’re wasting energy, you’re wasting feed, and she’s got fat deposits around the tail and maybe in the brisket, and that’s probably over condition for what we want. (Dan) When we say the body condition score, six, seven, and eight, yes it’s funny to me when I see some of the bull catalogs we feed these bulls up to body condition score eight for a picture, but nobody ever turns body condition score eight bulls out. So it really gets back to what is our industry? What are some of our goals? But I think that’s about as good as description folks you’re going to get going between that three, and six, or seven, and an understanding. Then that sets the framework plan for what we’re going to talk about as far as adjustments, right? (Chris) Exactly. The body condition score, I say it’s the closest thing we’ve got to a dipstick for checking on the energy status to that cow. Simply looking at her for a few seconds gives you the answer. (Dan) When you’re out there, and you’re having your cows pregged, most veterinarians are pretty good at body condition score. While they’re palpating the cow there over the top of that back, they can tell you what they’re seeing in body condition score. When we come back, we’ll talk more about some of the things you can do to correct body condition score for the winter. You’re watching DocTalk, and we’ll be back in just a minute.
(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Chris Reinhardt, who is a Ruminant Nutritionist and Professor over in Animal Sciences and Industry. He is our state Extension Specialist for beef cattle, all things beef cattle, and a good friend and colleague. We’re talking about body condition scores, and the one thing when we left; we got the three through seven. So now I walk out there, and I’ve got some threes. What do I need to do? Or some fours. What are some things that you’re putting into the program as my nutritionist or consultant? (Chris) The thing a rancher needs to think about when he sees threes and fours, when he starts counting ribs and can see the bone structure, is that is at best a late breeder this summer or this breeding season, and at worst she winds up being such a late breeder that she falls out and she’s open at the end of breeding season. That’s how we need to think in terms of also health of the calf, quality colostrum, all of those things. But you need to see that thin cow as a cost, and a potential loss to the operation. (Dan) Absolutely. So, I see the issues, but I need to correct the issues. Are they correctable? (Chris) Definitely. There’s different management systems you may employ. The one I’d like if possible, if you have the kind of facilities, is to take those cows, and separate them out, and feed those differently than the cows that are out of five or even a six. Those cows, the fives and sixes, don’t need extra nutrition. But for some reason the threes and the fours didn’t do as well this summer as the rest of the herd, and maybe as well as they did in the past. If they’re young cows, that means they’re still growing. Part of their energy every day is going to frame growth and muscle. If they’re old cows, maybe it is time to consider moving them on to greener pastures. But for now, we’ve got them bred. Let’s get another calf out of them, and then make another decision next spring. So yes, the idea would be to separate them out, get them the nutrition, the energy, protein etc. that they require, that’s different than those really fleshy cows. (Dan) Dr. Bob used to say in our Beef Production classes, you buy your cows to match your environment, and you buy your bulls to match your market, and thinking about that some of those threes, if you have some fives and sixes, and you have some threes and fours, maybe these threes and fours aren’t quite a match for your environment too as you think long term for your herd, but how much weight? If I want to go from body condition score four to a five, how much weight do I need to put on those cows? (Chris) Nice, easy round figure of about 100 pounds. (Dan) About 100 pounds per body condition score, and NRC has what? 7%, just over 7% as a body condition score. You have to be thinking about that. If you have smaller cows or bigger cows, you can put on a percentage basis, but a good round figure is 100 pounds, and you think what it takes, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. (Chris) Exactly, and that’s why I use 100 pounds, is if I could get a cow to gain a pound a day, in addition to growing that calf, maintaining herself, a pound a day over winter you’ve done something. (Dan) That’s a big deal. When we come back, we’re going to talk about and wrap up body condition scores, here with Dr. Chris Reinhardt. You’re watching DocTalk. Thanks for joining us.
(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk, Dr. Dan Thomson with Dr. Chris Reinhardt. We’re at Kansas State University. Both of us work in beef cattle production, and beef cattle production medicine. We travel the state and the countryside, working with you and on your ranches, in your feedlots, glad to do it. Glad to have Dr. Reinhardt on the show, talking about body condition scores. Chris when we get to that point — we left saying this isn’t going to happen overnight, but the earlier you can recognize it the better. What do we do if we don’t have the facilities to separate the cows? (Chris) If you can’t separate the cows, you already know there’s a divergence in your genetics. The cows that have an ability to make due on very little, and then there’s other cows that are harder keepers. You’ve got to make a decision, if these are the kind of genetics, I really do want to keep in the herd, well you’re going to have to feed them, and that may mean feeding the entire herd better. Better quality hay, find some better hay, provide some supplementation, protein energy, et cetera. (Dan) One of the things is that if we’re coming out of the drought, or the grass wasn’t as good this summer as what we had planned, then you’re probably looking at a herd level issue, where the normal distribution of body condition scores, and now we’re trying to move that herd to a place. Obviously there’s some cows that are going to get over finished, but we’ve got to have a few of those over finished — I’d rather have a couple of over finished, than under finished cows. When you’re making those strategies or decisions, we’re probably going to have to supplement, right? (Chris) Definitely if we find a significant number of the herd under condition, we’re not going to do that on hay alone. (Dan) Folks what you don’t understand is — or I didn’t understand at the beginning is, if you don’t make these adjustments, and don’t increase that body condition score, it may not affect you this year, but if you want to have calves on the ground the following year, you really need to be paying attention to that body condition score. It has an impact on immune status; it could have impact on neonatal calf scours, colostrum quality. All of these things that energy is neither created nor destroyed, and the money is going to come from somewhere. (Chris) I’m glad you touched on that Doc; it’s not just about fertility. There’s a huge cascade of all the other problems that will come from having under condition cows. (Dan) Big time, and when we start thinking about this, what are some of the common supplements that you see being used out there, for putting on condition score, what would you use? (Chris) A great point doc, as we look around the country, you’ve got feeds available, mostly by-product feeds are often affordable. One thing we want to try to avoid is feeding too much just grain. If hay is your primary feed base over the winter, adding more than a pound or so of actual grain, corn, whatever have you, it’s going to cut down the utilization of that forage. Let’s look around for by-products, distillers grains, gluten feed maybe wheat nibs, some fibrous by-product feeds, would be an excellent energy source. (Dan) Great. Thanks for being with us today. (Chris) It’s a good topic. (Dan) It’s always good to have Dr. Reinhardt on the show. Thanks for watching DocTalk, be sure you work with your local veterinary on those body condition scores in your cows. If you want to know more about what we do at DocTalk you can find us on the web at www.doctalktv.com. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson. Thanks for watching us this morning and I’ll see you down the road.
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