Body Condition Scoring in Practice – using Standard Operating Procedures

Author: Cecilia Bågenvik (DeLaval) - October 19, 2017

Measuring Body Condition Score (BCS) has traditionally been done manually by feed advisors, veterinarians or the farmers themselves monthly or a few times per lactation. By using an automatic system for BCS, data is provided every day which opens up new possibilities for improved feeding management. Keeping cows in optimal BCS during the lactation as well as the dry period, improves both milk production, overall health status and reproduction.

     Monitoring BCS during different parts of lactation.

The DeLaval BCS system provides a score every time a cow walks out of the milking robot or through a sort gate. To translate the score provided by the system into real activities in the farm, such as a change in feed ration, or check for metabolic disorders, the system is also providing the farmer with the possibility to use a number of Standard Operating Procedures, SOPs. The SOPs ensures that no cow is missed and that for each specific trend or alarm, the instruction for the staff on the farm is very clear and concise.

4D4F visited two farms in the south of Sweden that are using the BCS SOPs in their daily work. In the farm Bruatorp, Britt Johansson is working with four different SOPs for BCS. One for early lactation cows, one for cows approaching dry off and two SOPs for slaughter planning. “If cows in early lactation are in risk of developing ketosis, then the action in the SOP is to do a BHB test, and to give additional energy feed”, Britt explains. “Based on the BHB test result, there are different actions in the SOP”. Britt is checking the BCS alarm list and feed rations every day to optimize the performance and feed efficiency of the herd.

Britt Johansson is showing how the SOP is built in DelPro Farm Manager.

Kerstin Persson and Göran Berg in Arbelunda, explains how they let the SOP filter out cows that need some additional feed, and how they can use the BCS for slaughter planning. “It is easy to miss cows that there are no obvious issues with”, Kerstin explains. “With the camera, no cow is missed”.

Göran is using the system to plan the feeding. He has noticed that the camera often can confirm a feeling that he has, especially if there has been an unintended change in the feed ration, which has not been noticed, that affects the whole herd. “The more we trust the results from the system, the more we use it”, Göran says. 

Cows in pasture in the beautiful Arbelunda farm.