Breeding in most autumn-calving dairy herds will begin in early January and before this takes place, farmers should assess the body condition score (BCS) of their cows.

Cows with a BCS that is too low will find it more difficult to go back in-calf and it may result in a larger number of empty cows.

Ahead of the start of breeding it is important to assess the herd to identify these cows that are in a condition score that is too low.


The management of the low-condition-score cows in spring-calving herds is generally a little easier.

In these cases, once-a-day (OAD) milking can be used to build condition.

However, in autumn calvers, this often cannot be used due to cows in winter milk production having higher yields.

Instead, here, farmers should consider grouping these low-BCS cows. This will allow farmers to keep a closer eye on them and ensure they are able to access the feed.

Cows in a low BCS in the main herd might find it harder to access the feed due to older or ‘bully’ cows forcing them out.

Placing cows in groups takes some of the pressure off them and should make it easier for them to regain some condition.

Farmers should also speak with an advisor or nutritionist to determine if extra feed is required to aid in the building of condition.

If grouping is not possible, farmers should ensure that there is enough space so that all cows can eat at the same time.

Younger, or less dominant cows may be pushed away from the feed barrier until older or more dominate cows are finished eating.

In-calf rate

Cows with a low condition score in the breeding season have been shown to have lower conception rates compared to cows in the correct score.

If cows aren’t assessed, it is possible that some may have a lower in-calf rate than is the aim.

There are several factors that can impact a cow’s fertility, but by condition-scoring cows farmers can eliminate one of the possible causes.

The aim is to have 80% or more of the herd calving in the first six-weeks of the calving season.

To achieve this figure, 90% of your herd needs to be submitted in the first three-weeks, or 4.3% each day of the breeding season.

It is important to note that this is only possible if all cows are cycling at the start of the breeding season.