Body condition score trainings in Florida
by Philipe Moriel, Assistant Professor
Beef Cattle Nutrition and Management
UF/IFAS Range Cattle Research and Education Center, Ona
Body condition score (BCS) is a practical and inexpensive indicator of fat (energy) reserves in a beef cow, highly correlated with reproduction and ease to implement by producers. Surveys administered in top cow-calf counties in FL (Polk, Okeechobee, and Hendry; over 100 surveys collected) indicated that 73% of attendees do not keep records of cow BCS. Also, because BCS is a subjective measurement, the variation among scores selected for the same animal was extremely large (1- to 2-point difference using a 1 to 9 scale), leading to under- or over-estimations of cow energy reserves. It is crucial that a standardized BCS trainings are developed to educate stakeholders about proper estimates of cow’s energy reserves. Thus, our group, in collaboration with the South Florida Beef and Forage Program, developed BCS training tools and activities to improve the accuracy of BCS among stakeholders.
A unique, free online tutorial is currently available to the public. This online training takes approximately 1 hour to complete. It is free and can be taken multiple times! To access this training, please click here. Please, share it with your peers.
Starting in the Spring 2018, annual face-to-face BCS trainings for producers were implemented in 3 counties. These trainings also take approximately one hour but has caused a great impact on our stakeholders. We have observed an increase on the average percentage of the audience choosing the correct BCS from 49% BEFORE the training to 62% AFTER the training.
In all trainings, our group uses interactive learning devices to provide immediately feedback relative to the information learned and knowledge increase. We also provide free flow charts and additional educational materials to improve the statewide accuracy of body condition scoring.
Pre- and post-training surveys delivered to producers and livestock agents indicated:
Skills increase = 13% increase on skills to select the proper cow BCS;
Knowledge increase = 49% on impacts of BCS on cow performance; 47% on impacts of cow nutrition on calf performance; 75% increase on previous and on-going UF research studies; 54% on supplementation strategies for beef cows;
Aspirations = 92% of attendees will evaluate cow BCS at least twice annually; 96% of attendees will utilize the tools and implement one supplementation strategy delivered at our trainings.