BCS Cows Now to Plan for Next Season

Final PD results are in and next years calving spread has been established.  It is now time to start thinking about effective autumn/winter management of cows with the aim of getting mature cows to BCS 5.0 and R2's and R3's to 5.5.

What's the point in achieving the above targets you may ask.  It is now well established that cows that calve in optimal condition (BCS 5.0 v 4.0) will produce more than 20kg of MS extra over the first 8 weeks of lactation and will resume cycling about 10 days earlier.  These earlier cycling cows will tend to have better conception rates come mating time.  

To achieve target BCS at calving some planning needs to be put in place now.  The average cow in NZ only manages to gain 0.5 of a BCS over the dry period.  Therefore, mature cows should ideally be dried off at BCS 4.5 and R3's at 5.0. Early identification of light cows in the autumn means that they can receive special attention.  This may involve one or a combination of the following - OAD milking, increased grain or PKE allocation or early dry off.  Cows can then be rescored in May for winter group creation.

If all cows reach a similar BCS at dry off it will simplify wintering as cows only need to be wintered in 'due to calve groups'.

Ask your prime vet about individual BCSing of cows during a milking.

Vet Certification for Transport

As the mating season concludes many farms will be looking to offload bulls and start making decisions over cull cows.  It is during this time we see an increased requirement for veterinary transport certificates.  It is a legal requirement that animals are fit for transport.  The certificate remains valid for 7 days from the date of examination and the animal must be slaughtered at the nearest processing plant.

What we need from you:

  • An area to adequately examine and restrain the animal when required
  • The animal tagged with a recordable number for identification
  • The location of the processing plant and when killing space has been booked.

From a veterinary point of view:

Due to increased scrutiny being placed on transport certificates by MPI, there is strict criteria that we as veterinarians must follow.  Below are common conditions requiring certification and the associated requirements.

Penile conditions: Bulls must be able to urinate freely, not have any haemorrhage, swelling, abscessation or discharge from the area surrounding the penis.

Cancer eye: The cancer cannot be larger than a $1 coin (2cm) confined to the eye or eyelid (not spreading), not bleeding or discharging pus.

Lameness: Great emphasis is now being placed on lame animals being transported for slaughter.  Lameness is scored 0-3.  Grade 2 animals may be certified fit for transport with specific instructions such as reduced pen density.  The link below is the Dairy NZ lameness scoring system and I strongly encourage all farmers to view the following video to assess whether the animal is a suitable candidate for certification. 



We are once again seeing several cases of P.E. (polio encephalomalacia), a nervous disease seen primarily in calves and younger stock.  P.E. is caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (not to be confused with a cobalt deficiency, which is associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency).  P.E. is thought to be nutritionally induced, when there is a sudden change in diet from stalky, higher DM diet, to a lush, low fibre diet.  A high dietary sulphur intake, especially with brassica's, has also been incriminated as a cause of P.E.  Calves with P.E. appear blind, may walk aimlessly, appear wobbly, have muscle tremors and head press.  If calves are treated early in the disease process with a series of vitamin B1 injections, survival rates are good.  In an outbreak situation we have had good success, by prophylactically treating the remaining, unaffected calves, in the group with an oral vitamin B1 drench.  This has proved a very cost effective preventative measure.