The Cost of Thin Cows

Skinny cows may look better in bikinis, but in the beef business that's not really how we measure success. Economic losses from thin cows can be substantial.  As the graph below shows, the thinner the cow, the less likely she is to become pregnant.  While weaning weight may not always be a good measure of your success as a producer, calves from skinny cows will have lower weaning weights, which could result in lower revenues.  This is because skinny cows produce less colostrum, so their calves may not be as healthy, or may not even survive. According to Dr. Matt Poore of North Carolina State University, "There will always be individual cows that will be exceptions to the rule, but on a herd basis, having an average score lower than 5 will mean reduced breeding rates."  He notes two studies, one from Texas and one from Florida demonstrating this.  In Texas, 1041 cows were body condition scored at the start of the breeding season.  Those cows with a score of 4 had a 58% breeding rate, those with a 5 had an 85% breeding rate, and those with a 6 score had a 95% breeding rate. In the Florida study, 624 cows were scored at the pregnancy check. Cows with a BCS of 3 had a 43% breeding rate, cows with BCS of 4 had a 66% breeding rate, and cows with a BCS of 5 had a 94% breeding rate. The graph above and the studies described use a 1-9 scale for beef cattle, where 1 is extremely thin and 9 is extremely fat.  (Dairy cattle are typically measured on a 1 to 5 scale.)

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3 thoughts on “The Cost of Thin Cows

  1. I don’t think those weaning weights presented in the first table are in kilograms. 508 kgs is 1120 lbs. I am guessing that they have already been converted to pounds.

    1. Keith, we think you are right! Thanks for not having a “beef” with us over that. Those would be some big calves.

  2. In my opinion……..BCS have far too many categories for the average rancher to gain a lot of value from formal condition scoring. 4 categories would cover all you need to know……

    1 Thin – Low Condition
    2 Just Below Average Condition
    3 Above Average Condition
    4 Fat

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