While scoring manure piles, producers and nutritionists should check their herds’ locomotion and body-condition scores, said Mike Hutjens, University of Illinois emeritus dairy nutritionist.

Or evaluate cows as they come from the milking parlor, he added.

The locomotion scoring system, developed by Michigan State University and Zinpro Corp., ranges from score 1 showing no lameness to 5 reflecting severe lameness. Hutjens scores about 30-50 cows at a time. A herd’s locomotion score should have at least 75% of the cows score 1, about 15% score 2 and less than 10% score 3.

“And score 3 cows are what? Lame. Dry-matter intake goes down 3% and milk drops 5%,” he said. “We should drop more milk than that. Those cows are now going to take that milk from their backs, which means they’re not going to breed and they’re going to become cull cows.”

Body-condition scoring is rated from 1 as underconditioned, 2.75-3.25 as balanced, 4 as overconditioned and score 5 as obese, high-risk unhealthy cows. Hutjens wants to see no cows over 3.5 in body condition and no dropping of more than half a point as they start milking, but, “realistically, they may drop one score by 60 days after calving.

“Notice these are cows and not first-calf heifers,” he said. “Cows that have a lower body condition have lower fertility, while cows with high body-condition scores experience high levels of metabolic challenges.

“I want less than 25% of my breeding pen below a 2.5, a late-lactation pen less than 25% over a 3.25, less than 25% of my dry-cow pens over 3.5 and less than 25% of my heifers over 3.25. I want my heifers lighter than my cows.”