Haskell County Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service

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Haskell County OSU Extension
105 SE 3rd Street, Suite A
Stigler, OK 74462

Phone: (918) 967-4330
FAX: (918) 967-3290

Office Hours: 8 am-12 pm & 12:30 pm-4:30 pm 


Haskell County Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service

Time to Evaluate Cow Herd for Breeding Potential

Britt Hicks, Ph.D., Area Extension Livestock Specialist

Time to Evaluate Cow Herd for Breeding Potential

Figure 1

With spring calving approaching, now would be good time to evaluate the breeding potential of your cows.  Research has shown that the body condition score (BCS) of beef cows at the time of calving has a huge impact on subsequent rebreeding performance.  Body condition scoring is a practical management tool to allow beef producers to distinguish differences in nutritional needs of beef cows in the herd.  Simply put, BCS estimates the energy status (fat cover) of cows.  The scoring system used is a 1 to 9 point scale where a BCS 1 cow is extremely thin while a BCS 9 cow is extremely fat and obese.  A BCS 5 cow is in average flesh or body condition.  A change of 1 BCS is equivalent to about 90 lb of body weight.  To optimize pregnancy rates, mature cows should have BCS of 5 or greater at calving and 1st calf heifers should have a BCS of at least 6 at calving. 

 Research (Figure 1) suggest that increasing calving BCS from 3 to 4 would increase pregnancy rates by about 35 percentage points (from 32 to 68%).  Increasing calving BCS from a 4 to a 5 would increase pregnancy rates by about 20 percentage points (from 68 to 88%).  Note this same effect of BCS at calving on pregnancy rates has been observed in different regions of the country (Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas).

 If your cows currently have inadequate condition, there is still some time to change the BCS prior to calving.  Manage your mature cows for a BCS of 5+ at calving.  If the cows are in BCS of 5 at calving, a slow gradual weight loss after calving is ok.  Whereas, if the cows are less than BCS 5 at calving then one needs to hold or increase BCS (weight gain) after calving.  However, increasing BCS from calving until breeding will be difficult and costly since cows are lactating.

 Maintaining body condition at calving is always important.  However, with the dry conditions we are experiencing, it is even more important this year. 


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