Earlier this month, Volac were featured in British Dairying. You can read the article below.
Why does BCS matter?
BCS assesses body fat reserves, in particular the impact of negative energy balance in early lactation and in turn a cow’s ability to milk to her full genetic potential and return in calf. BCS is more accurate than weighing as body weight varies, for example with feed and water intake, and it allows corrective action to be taken before health and performance are adversely affected.
Why don’t more farmers regard BCS as an essential tool to individual cow management? To be effective, BCS should be carried out on every single cow regularly during her lactation. Consequently, some farmers regard it as too time consuming whilst others question its accuracy.
What does the industry need to do to encourage better uptake? New technology is emerging that is able to remotely BCS. The sooner it becomes widely available at an acceptable cost, the better.
How to do it: the five scores
BCS is traditionally carried out by a hands-on assessment of the flesh covering of loin, rump, and tail head areas at five distinct stages of the production cycle
- Late lactation - 250 days in milk
- Post-calving examination - 21 days in milk
- Mid lactation
And scored on a scale of 1 to 5 in steps of 0.25 units, where 1 is very thin and 5 is over fat. See sketch diagrams.
Early lactation is the most crucial since condition at this stage has a knock-on effect on the whole of the subsequent production period. A cow within the optimum BCS in this period will be much more likely to attain her potential peak yield, produce high quality milk and get back in calf according to plan.
How can we improve BCS accuracy?
Firstly, BCS needs to become the norm on every farm with staff having the confidence to do it quickly, accurately and with the belief that it makes a difference. Sophisticated technology is now available, such as a BCS camera which automatically measures BCS daily by taking a 3D image of a cow’s lower back. It does away with the guesswork and the inaccuracies of looking at and feeling cows.
What happens when a cow is not in target condition?
Overweight cows are more susceptible to metabolic problems and infections, and they are more likely to have difficulties during and after calving.
Underweight cows can suffer reduced milk production and low milk fat levels partly because they lack the reserves to maintain production. Thin cows also frequently fail to show heat or conceive until they start to regain weight.
How can you prevent your herd being over/under condition?
- Check the feeding program. Focus on energy intake. Quality forage (based on accurate analysis) should account for at least 45% of a cow’s total dry matter consumption.
- Increase energy at the right time. Ensure cows calve in optimum body condition as a starting point by adjusting feed in late lactation and monitoring through the dry period.
- One way to offset negative energy balance during early lactation is to offer extra energy using rumen-protected (bypass) fats, which can be added up to 2-3% of ration dry matter (total fat in the ration may need to be 6+% of dry matter to meet requirements). Recent research work has shown that individual fatty acids have different roles to play during lactation: C16:0 (such as in Mega-Fat 88) will increase partitioning of nutrients to milk, improving milk fat %, while C18:1, added to the diet in rumen-protected form (e.g. as in Megalac), improves the digestibility of total fat in the diet and helps partition more energy towards improving BCS.
Remember too, it’s the rate of BCS loss in fresh cows that has the biggest effect on fertility; cows losing 1 BCS unit or more from calving to insemination will start cycling later and see a big drop in conception to 1st service. Aim to minimize BCS loss to support fertility targets. For further BCS information see www.megalac.com
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