Explore why managing cow body condition is vastly important for maintaining profitability in a cow-calf operation, such as in Florida’s beef industry.

A recent Beef Magazine article maintained that “In the cow-calf production system, reproductive efficiency is the No. 1 driver of profitability.” Florida is mainly a cow-calf state, meaning that the herd’s offspring are the main thing driving profit. The article also maintained that “A beef cow should have zero non-productive days,” with non-productive days being when a cow is neither gestating or lactating, and that “the single most important factor in keeping a cow at zero non-productive days is body condition.” See tips from the article for managing cow body condition.

Cow Body Condition Details

Cow body condition is basically “the amount of fat cover a cow is carrying through the various stages of the production cycle.” The article maintains that “Body condition has a direct impact on calving interval, conception rate and percentage of open cows. To access body condition, ranchers and researchers use a scoring scale of 1 (emaciated) to 9 (very obese).”

Research into body condition score has shown:

  • “Cows that calve at a body condition score of 5 to 6 will return to estrus in 50 to 60 days.”
  • “Cow calving at a body condition score of 4 will take 70 days.
  • There is “only 80 days available from calving to rebreeding to stay on a 365-day calving cycle, this does not allow much time…”

Since “it takes around 100 pounds of weight gain to change 1 unit on the body condition scale,” beef producers need to stay on top of body condition scores. One recommendation is “If a cow requires such a gain, consider whether you have quality feed supplies on hand to accomplish it. A forage test can help you know what you are working with. Forage tests cost about $20 per sample. An open cow could cost you about $1,200 in lost calf revenue plus cow maintenance costs for a year. The return on investment for a forage test is hard to beat.”

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