Could you save money by having your cows in the right condition at housing?

Although farmers are hoping it will be a long way off, the winter housing period is fast approaching and a special focus should be placed on suckler cow body condition score.

Following weaning, Teagasc says, excessive body condition loss should be avoided; thin cows should be allowed to build up condition again ahead of winter housing.

At housing, excessively thin cows should be penned separately and offered unrestricted access to moderate-to-good quality silage.

The importance of body condition score (BCS) can not be underestimated, as it’s a practical management tool that can be used to manage feed requirements.

The targeted body condition score for spring-calving cows is summarised in the below table.

Table source: Teagasc

Feeding the pregnant suckler cow

According to Teagasc, the manipulation of cow BCS between winter and summer is an important strategy in controlling feed costs.

For cost effective feed management, the key is to economically build up body reserves from grazed grass and utilise these reserves over the winter when feed costs are highest, thus diluting overall feed costs.

Teagasc also presented an example which showed that achieving the target BCS at weaning and calving can lead to a winter feed saving of 1.0-1.5t of grass silage.

In simple monetary terms, this is equivalent to a €35-40 or greater saving per cow or around €2,000 annually for a 50-cow herd.