Although the autumn calving season is still a number of months away, assessing body condition score (BCS) and identifying which cows are suitable for selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) allows for future planning and easy management.

Typically, the majority of autumn calving cows are likely to calf in October in order to meet their liquid milk requirements.

The first of the autumn calving cows start calving late August and early September.

With this in mind, it is important to start assessing BCS now, as doing so will give you an opportunity to identify cows in poor condition that need extra care.

Assessing BCS

Having the correct BCS before drying-off is crucial for a cow to have an easy calving and a successful lactation.

Assessing BCS can lead to trouble-free calving, good conception rates, reduced culling and better milk solids production.

Running cows through a crush now will allow for the identification of cows that are not at an adequate BCS before drying off.

The target BCS for cows at calving is 3.25, with an acceptable range of 0.25 units above or below.

The general rule of thumb is that every condition score (~50kg) below target at calving, results in the cow milking 450L less during the next lactation and leads to reduced fertility.

There is also the fear that cows have too much condition at calving (>3.5) – this can lead to metabolic diseases such as ketosis or milk fever.

Given that farmers are still a number of months away from drying off, if a cow has a BCS that is too low or too high, it gives farmers plenty time to correct the condition score of your cows.

Selecting for SDCT

Farmers should start to choose which cows could potentially be selected for SDCT.

Starting to select for SDCT now, will allow you to monitor the cow’s performance in the last few months of lactation, assisting you in choosing which cows are suitable and which cows are not.

SDCT is now compulsory, so in order to avoid any issues, you should consult with your vet and milk quality advisor to determine what the threshold should be for your herd.

If cows are not properly selected for SDCT, there is a high risk of the cows getting mastitis.

If cows are properly selected for SDCT, it will reduce your costs, promote responsible antimicrobial use, and potentially reduce stress over withdrawals post calving.