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J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1995 Nov 15;207(10):1292-7.

Use of performance ratios to calculate the economic impact of thin cows in a beef cattle herd.

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Department of Large Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station 77843-4461, USA.



To determine gross income lost that was attributable to thin cows in a beef cattle herd, to estimate the cost of added nutrition necessary to prevent thin cows in the herd, and to determine the financial outcome of the improved nutritional practices.


Prospective, observational study.


Four hundred and twenty-two Santa Gertrudis cows and their calves.


At pregnancy examination in the fall of 1992, cows were assigned a body condition score (BCS), using a scale of 1 (emaciated) to 9 (obese), and the ratio of the productivity of BCS-3 and BCS-4 cow groups (thin cows), compared with the mean productivity of BCS-5 and BCS-6 cows (cows in good condition), was determined. Measures of productivity evaluated included pregnancy rates, weaning weights, and prices per hundredweight of calves. The performance ratios of BCS-3 and BCS-4 cows were multiplied by the mean gross income of BCS-5 and BCS-6 cows to calculate their gross income. This was then subtracted from the mean income of BCS-5 and BCS-6 cows to estimate the amount of lost gross income per thin cow. The cost of a nutritional program that would prevent thin cows in the herd was subtracted from the lost gross income of the thin cows to yield the amount of increased net income that could be generated from a nutritional program that would maintain cows in the herd at a BCS of 5 or 6.


Cows with a BCS of 3 were 0.48 as productive, and cows with a BCS of 4 were 0.74 as productive as the average of the BCS-5 and BCS-6 cows combined. Each BCS-3 cow generated $215.06 less, and each BCS-4 cow generated $107.53 less gross income than the average gross income of BCS-5 and BCS-6 cows. The added cost of nutrition that would have reconditioned BCS-3 and BCS-4 cows to a BCS of 5.5 was $91.48/BCS-3 cow and $43.67/BCS-4 cow. Implementation of the reconditioning nutrition program the previous fall would have resulted in an extra net income of $123.58/BCS-3 cow and $63.86/BCS-4 cow, received over a 2-year period. The 262 thin cows in the herd accounted for a total net income loss of $19,897.


The time of pregnancy examination is a strategic intervention point to estimate the past negative economic impact of thin cows and to implement a plan to prevent these losses in the future. Pregnancy examinations should be performed at least 100 days before the beginning of the calving season, and thin pregnant cows should be sorted into a special group and fed a reconditioning diet that will improve their body condition to an average BCS of 5.5 by the onset of the calving season.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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