With calving season well and truly on the horizon, it is important that we give some consideration to cow health in the final weeks of pregnancy. Cows in poor physical condition are far more likely to have difficulty at calving time, or to produce calves with serious complications. As farmers, we should do what we can to give our animals the best possible chance of delivering strong, healthy calves with a minimum of stress and fuss.
Cow Condition Score
One of the key considerations in the final weeks before calving should always be cow body condition. Ideally, cows at calving time should have a Body Condition Score of about 2.5. At this BCS, animals are fit and healthy, but do not have excess body fat.
To get cows to the desired BCS ahead of calving, you should feed silage of a reasonable quality (around (65-67DMD). You should avoid any major changes to the diet of pregnant cattle in the run-up to calving.
How to Check a Cow’s BCS
It is actually quite easy to check a cow’s BCS. Scoring entails using the flat of your hand to press down on the cow at the pin bones, the ribs and the loin of the backbone. The key indicators are the sharpness of the bones as you press down, versus the layers of fat present.
Animals are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. Cows that are extremely thin will score at 1, while very fat cattle will score a 5. If your cow has the target BCS of 2.5, her pin bones will be somewhat prominent. The loin along her backbone will feel a little sharp, and her ribs will be slightly sharp and prominent.
If the cow’s bones are very well conditioned, she may be slightly too fat and this could cause her calving difficulties. Naturally, the same applies if she is too thin.
Nutrition is the other point of note for farmers prior to calving season. Silage may not always contain all of the vitamins and minerals your animal needs to feed a healthy calf. If the cow is deficient in key vitamins, minerals and trace elements, the calf’s health will also be compromised.
This is why it is a good idea to administer pre-calving minerals a few weeks out from calving. These can be administered in a number of ways, including through drenches, mineral licks and boluses. More and more farmers are leaning towards the bolus because, while it is slightly more expensive than other approaches, it is also arguably the most effective.
However, for those who prefer the drench option, Nutrigain’s Breeding Cow is an excellent and cost-efficient way of helping your cows to meet their vitamin and mineral needs. We have been using this product on our farm for a few years now, and have found it to be highly effective.
Whether you decide to go with drenches, licks or boluses, it is important that you read the ingredients of each product carefully before giving it to your animals. For pregnant cows, the key minerals include magnesium, iodine, selenium and phosphorous.