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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care May 2007

Hi Folks,

Spring is FINALLY here! The warm evenings feel nice - better yet are seeing green pastures with cows on them. This month I'd like to follow up somewhat on last month's comments. As we let the cows out onto pasture they will likely gain some nice gloss to their hair coat. Cows that are correctly fed will naturally have glossy hair coats and good rumen fill. As pasture has more protein relative to energy, cows will likely lose some body condition as they munch away at the lush growth that is coming on strong now. While they will be exercising nicely and be in good "athletic" shape, I see some grazing herds with some cows that simply are too skinny and have dry looking hair coats. It is likely these cows did not gain enough body condition during the winter time (the winter is the usual time for gaining some body condition). Traditionally housed herds housed herds will likely have better body condition going into the pasture season than those that were primarily outdoors in the winter time. The ones primarily outside usually will have thicker coats (especially first calf heifers), but those shaggy coats sometimes are covering over a rather lean animal. This depends on whether or not there was supplemental feeding for the outdoor animals instead of just a round bale of hay. At the opposite end, cows which are fed correctly throughout their lactation will have glossy coats and have good rumen fill (a full round profile on their left side). Cows that are truly being fed well may even show what some have called "happy lines". I have noticed "happy lines" in some herds recently and have pointed it out on individual cows where they are showing. These are seen as a few barely visible horizontal streaks along the sides (ribs) of the cow. It as if you just ran your finger tips across her ribs from front to back. I really don't know how they get there, but it is a reflection of very good health. See pictures on back.

Body condition scoring is important because we can identify areas for improved feeding management as well as improved herd health, production, reproduction and profitability. Cows cycle through different body conditions during their production cycle. Typically, they should be in a body condition score of 3.5 -3.8 when calving and drop down into the two range when milking heavy and then slowly recover condition as they go past peak milk. If a cow is too skinny or too fat, there can be metabolic problems going on internally. I definitely am not a nutritionist but can have seen improvements in body condition score within a month's time by switching to a nutritionist that really knows how to feed cows. One catch ? make sure that the nutritionist also like to work with grazing herds.

Measuring body condition should be done at periodic intervals (i.e. every two weeks or monthly). It should be done by the same person. Areas we look to evaluate are: pin bones, hook bones, short ribs, thurl, tail head ligaments and sacral ligaments. The idea is to look for how well or poorly covered these areas are. In other words, can we see many boney angles and a "shelf" effect of the short ribs (skinny) or can we hardly see the pin bones and hook bones (fat). I would maintain that most grazing herds will fall between a 2.5-3 in general for most of the lactation while herds fed more indoors will gain extra condition that grazing herds won? t. Extremes, however, are not good. Therefore, if a grazing herd has a consistent low body condition score, like 2-2.5, then there is a lack of energy in general. Nutritionists are glad to discuss how to keep animals in good body condition. Appropriate body condition is very important for getting cows bred back in a timely fashion, especially in AI herds, as cows in negative energy condition (skinny) generally won? t show good heats if showing any at all. It is definitely an art to feeding grazing cows correctly - and body condition is a reflection if feeding is being done appropriately.

Look carefully just below the upside down triangle below the short ribs and along the large ribs - you'll see some faint streaks - these are Happy Lines.


Body Condition Score of 2


Body Condition Score 3

 

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