Body condition scoring and drying off

As we flick our calendars over to March it’s time to begin making adjustments to milking herd management. How you manage your herd in the next couple of months will have a significant impact on BCS at calving, which in result, will affect reproductive performance come mating time.The first step to meeting calving BCS targets (5.0 for mature cows and 5.5 for R2s and R3s) is to BCS all milking cows. This allows you to draft out groups of cows with the intention to implement a mixture of strategies such as preferential feeding high risk cows, OAD milking (partial/whole herd), early dry-off, and supplement/winter crop feeding to dry cows. Key points to think about when choosing dates to dry-off cows are:

  • Even well-fed cows are unlikely to gain more than 0.5 BCS units in 30 days.

  • Cows cannot gain BCS in the last month before calving.

  • Well fed cows milked OAD for 3 months in late lactation will be 0.5 BCS units fatter at dry-off than those milked TAD. 

Below is a helpful table for drying off based on cow BCS:

Source: DairyNZ body condition scoring: The reference guide for New Zealand dairy farmers (2012)

Different combinations of these strategies will work best with different farms. Feel free to give us a ring to discuss what will suit your farm best. All our large animal vets and techs are Dairy NZ certified body condition scorers. We are capable of doing rotaries at milking time, and run cows through herringbones during the day.

To help you make the best decisions for your herd at drying off, for every dry cow consult we do on farm we will individually score your herd for half the normal price. Give us a ring to book in your discounted scoring visit and dry cow script.