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Describing the Body Condition Score Change Between Successive Calvings: A Novel Strategy Generalizable to Diverse Cohorts

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 18:19 authored by Roche, JR, Berry, DP, Lee, JM, Macdonald, KA, Boston, RC
The objective of this study was to explore the derivation of a mathematical model that adequately describes the intercalving body condition score (BCS) profile in dairy cows and is robust and applicable to different animal cohorts. The data used to generate the function were 75,352 daily BCS records across 3,209 lactations in 1,172 cows from a research herd in New Zealand. Mean daily BCS (scale 1 to 10) across all data were plotted and 4 distinct phases were observed. The functional form used to describe the pattern and quantify its features comprised the sum of the 4 phase functions created from intercepts, rates of change, approximate timing of phase transition points, and the sharpness of these transition points in the BCS profile. The generality and applicability of the described model were tested across substrata of BCS at calving and parity. A second data set consisting of a multiyear study comparing cows fed a total mixed ration (TMR) or grazing fresh pasture was compiled from a different research farm. This data set consisted of 4,112 BCS records from 211 lactations on 95 cows. The third data set was a collation of data from another multiyear experiment comparing animal performance under different stocking rates. The data set consisted of 12,414 BCS test-day records on 564 lactations from 287 cows. The presented model is robust and applicable to different animal cohorts, explaining between 29 and 79% of variation depending on the cohort studied. A notable second period of negative energy balance was evident in all grazing cows during midlactation, irrespective of calving BCS, parity, or stocking rate, but did not appear in cows fed TMR. The amount of BCS lost postcalving and nadir BCS were positively correlated with calving BCS, with fatter cows at calving losing more BCS postcalving but remaining at a greater BCS at nadir. Primiparous cows calved at a greater BCS than multiparous cows, as dictated by management protocols, but they failed to regain BCS postnadir as effectively as their multiparous counterparts. Results may highlight the need for preferential feeding of younger cows during late lactation, at least in grazing systems, to ensure that they achieve the required calving BCS at second calving. Cows receiving TMR lost BCS at a slower rate than cows on pasture but for a longer period; the amount of BCS lost between calving and nadir did not differ between the different feeding treatments. Calving BCS declined with increasing stocking rate, and the rates of both loss and gain were negatively affected by stocking rate. The presented model accurately identified biological attributes of the intercalving BCS profile of different groups of cows. © American Dairy Science Association, 2007.


Publication title

Journal of Dairy Science










Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


American Dairy Science Association

Place of publication

United States

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Dairy cattle

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