With cows housed for winter, walk through the pens at least once weekly and handle animals to check body condition, keeping your safety in mind when doing this task.
February- and March-calving cows will be entering the final trimester of pregnancy. If any cows are on the lean side or still carrying excessive flesh, body condition needs correcting now to avoid problems at calving time.
Spring-calving cows should be calving down in a body condition score (BCS) of 3.0. This means a good covering of flesh on the ribs, pin bones and tail head, but it is possible to feel the bones with light pressure.
The thing to keep in mind is that body condition is subjective. Cows with dairy breeding will look lean, but when handled, they are carrying flesh. So scoring has to be adjusted to account for different breeding.
But when done regularly by the same person, it is easy to build up a picture of how body condition is changing in the run-up to calving.
If there are a few thin cows, can they be grouped together for additional feeding with the best silage on farm for a short period?
The same goes with overfat cows. Silage will need restricting to slim them down, so animals may need isolating.
Each BCS is roughly 10% of body weight. So moving from BCS 2.5 to BCS 3.0 is a gain of 35kg to 40kg for most suckler cows and will take six to eight weeks. The same goes for slimming cows down.