Excerpt from Nation’s Center News, Feb 14, 2016 page 16; written by Ardele Harty, South Dakota State Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.
To ensure cows’ nutrient requirements are being met, Harty says to monitor body condition score and manure consistency on a regular basis, “the most important question to ask is ‘what condition are my cows in, and are they gaining, maintaining or losing condition?”
Manure consistency serves as an indicator of forage quality and animal performance and serves to help determine if cows need supplemental protein.
Manure patties that indicate a diet with crude protein greater than 10% show the center of the patty having a crater-like appearance. If there are small folds present around the edges of the patty, the crude protein is 10-13%. No additional supplementation is needed for mature cows with manure of this consistency.
Manure patties that indicate sufficient protein, CP between 6-9%, will have flat folds. As forage quality increases, the folds become smaller. This manure indicates maintenance requirements for mature cows are being met; depending on the stage of production, additional protein supplementation may be needed, particularly during late gestation or early lactation.
Manure that indicates deficient protein diets (CP < 5%) have droppings with very distinct rings at the lower portion, which tend to be firm. Manure from this forage quality tends to stack, but the rings are a true indicator of lower forage quality. This manure indicates maintenance requirements for all classes of beef are not being met and protein supplementation is needed.
It is challenging to collect a representative sample of forage to determine quality when cows are grazing dormant range. Using manure consistency will indicate when protein needs to be supplemented.
When feeding hay, have it analyzed for protein, energy and mineral content. “Hay quality varies from year to year, so what has worked in the past isn’t going to work the same every year,” she said. “Beyond that, because they are probably consuming a mixture of hay and forage grazed from pasture, monitoring BCS and manure consistency can ensure that nutrient needs are being met.”
For more information on body condition scoring cows or monitoring manure consistency to determine supplementation needs, contact Adele Harty at 605-394-1722 or
The WI Beef Information Center has Body Condition Scoring information and nutrition information including Hay Analysis Guide for Beef Cattle.