Automatic body condition scoring improves cows’ performance

In a recent study conducted in the United States in collaboration with DeLaval’s Scientific Committee, Body Condition Score (BCS) proved to be key in improving performance in herds.

The study’s main objective was to better understand the impact of the changes in BCS during the dry period and early lactation on variables that are significant to the farmer, including fertility, milk yield, and cow health. The results showed the value of monitoring BCS to maximise cow performance while improving the health status of the animals.

Another key objective was to explore how the dynamics of BCS, which is an indication of the energy status of the cow, were associated with reproductive efficiency, health, and milk yield. To study that, DeLaval provided the research team with DeLaval BCS cameras. The BCS cameras provided a unique opportunity to conduct 2 years of daily assessments of the subcutaneous fat reserves in 7,500 cows in a non-stressful, objective, and consistent way. The availability of high-frequency data provided detailed information on the dynamics of BCS and the production, reproductive performance, and health of the cow.

“More in detail, we identified that BCS changes at specific periods, such as from calving to the lowest BCS postpartum (nadir BCS), were strong predictors of future fertility and milk yield,” says Dr. Pablo Pinedo from Colorado State University, one of the authors of the study. “This measure could be a very valuable parameter for the monitoring of the dry period and the transition at the cow and the group herd/level. We expect that this new information will be used by the farmers to make feeding, grouping, and reproductive decisions that maximize the welfare and productivity of the cow and that could have a significant impact on the farm profit.”

According to Joaquin Azocar, co-author of the study and DeLaval Solution Manager in North America, the team knew that automatic daily BCS is of great value, but there is a gap in understanding how to put it into practice, especially in large herds. “That is why I engaged in collaborating with this study, the information that we have collected gives us a light to understand how to implement this type of technology in a successful way, helping our customers improve their cows’ productivity and welfare. The collaboration from the local and global DeLaval teams was key to the overall success of this project,” Joaquin says.

Collaborating with academia is an important part of DeLaval to ensure we always stay updated on the latest research. The results from the studies can shape the future of dairy farming for the better and is something that is high on our agenda. “We in the Scientific Committee at DeLaval are happy to team up with researchers across the globe to both test theories and DeLaval equipment in different situations, giving us data to develop further. To see the impact Body Condition Score has and how effectively the BCS cameras work has been very insightful and we look forward to many more exciting projects going forward,” says Mario Lopez, Technical Development Manager at DeLaval.

The whole study was the result of collaboration between Colorado State University, University of Florida, and DeLaval.

To read more about the study, please read the published manuscripts below.