Body condition scoring (BCS) of dairy cow is an easy, effective, and efficient method for determining energy reserves in terms of productive, reproductive, and growth status of dairy cow. In field conditions, it has been accepted as most satisfactory tool for easy judgment of dairy animals for their energy status There is a drastic change in body energy reserves of dairy animals during their dry period, as a result of which their production, health, reproduction is affected in subsequent lactation period. Therefore, it becomes very necessary to keep a careful watch on animals’ physical body changes during dry period. This can be easily done by body condition scoring and making farm decisions as per required condition. This article deals with the method of body condition scoring of dairy cows, its importance in dry period. The targeted BCS should be at 3.25 to 3.5 (1-5 point scale).
In field conditions, body condition scoring has been accepted as most satisfactory tool for easy judgment of dairy animals for their energy status as compared to the laboratory methods like estimation of plasma NEFA, BHBA, glucose, urea, protein, etc. but they are laboratory methods which require a well-equipped lab facility, and it is expensive too. BCS is a method commonly used to determine negative energy (NE) balance and in conducting appropriate nutrition programs (Lassen et al., 2003; Samarütel et al., 2006).
System of Body condition scoring in dairy animals (Ferguson et al., 1994)
As per this system of scoring, given below 7 checkpoints were examined:
-Loin (short ribs):
a. Spinous process and b. Transverse process
-Tail head ligament
Condition of animal and BCS
Dairy cows can be classified in three categories on 1-5 scale viz. good condition, under condition and over condition cows. Cows scoring between 3 to 3+ considered as good condition, cows scoring less than or equal to 2 considered as under condition and those scored more than or 4 considered as over condition cows (Gearhart et al., 1990). However, in a recent study for Jersey crossbred cows (Singh et al., 2020) the optimum range of BCS at calving was suggested to be in between 3.5 to 4.5 on a 1 to 6 scale for scoring body condition.
Changes in body condition score during dry period
Dairy animals should be proper body condition during dry period to ensure good health, production, reproduction performance. Decreasing trend off BCS is associated with more chances of dystocia and culling (Morrow et al., 1979). However, gained condition during dry period let to more milk in first 120 days of lactation and improved the gain in milk yield (Domecq et al., 1997). Generally, optimum body condition at calving has a positive effect on milk fat percentage, mainly in starting of lactation along with reducing the anestrous interval after calving (Grainger et al.,1982)
Importance of body condition scoring in dry period
During the dry period, cows should be maintained good body condition Cows fattened in excess during dry period are more subject to displaced abomasum, udder problems, ketosis, and other general health problems than dry cows maintained in adequate body condition (ILRI, 2015). Optimum BCS at calving leads to maximization of milk production and body weight loss is minimized post-calving (Beever, 2006). Achieving correct BCS at calving is a key to avoid calving forthcoming lactation performance and metabolic disease losses (Mohamed et al., 2015).
Methods to control under and over BCS at calving
Recent studies have shown that BCS at calving is an important aspect for dairy production. The cows which had optimum BCS at calving were found to yield more with lesser negative energy balance during initial lactation period. Beever (2006) suggested that high fiber and low energy diets during dry period may be beneficial for attaining proper BCS at calving of dairy animals. Roche et al. (2013) found that far off dry period diet affects production performance of dairy cows. In a recent study Singh et al. (2020) found that ad libtum fodder with comparatively lesser amount of concentrate mixture than that of close up dry period in ration of dairy cows lead to attaining proper BCS at calving along with significantly improved milk yield and udder health of Jersey crossbred cows.
Under field conditions, BCS is a good method to predict the well being of dairy animals. Maintaining an optimum BCS during dry period gives advantageous results in forthcoming lactation, reproduction and health performance. Dairy producers, entrepreneurs should consider the usage and practical importance of body condition scoring within their management practice. Attaining optimum BCS range at calving period thereby avoiding under and over condition may lead to improved milk performance, udder health with reduced negative energy balance during initial lactation period.