Most cows experience a period of nutrient deficit during the periparturient period. Body condition scoring (BCS) is widely used on farms to assess body nutrient reserves and mobilization. The aims of this study were to: (i) determine the association of BCS with ultrasound measurements of backfat (BFT) and longissimus dorsi muscle thickness (LDT) during the periparturient period of Holstein cows from different herds, accounting for potential sources of variation, such as herd, parity and period relative to calving and (ii) establish reference intervals (RIs) for BFT and LDT per BCS estimate. Two-hundred and fifty-two cows from six commercial farms were used. Body condition scores, BFT and LDT were assessed at seven time-points during the periparturient period. Assessments of BCS estimates as predictors of BFT and LDT and the contribution of BFT and LDT to BCS estimates were performed with the use of linear mixed models. Reference intervals for BFT and LDT per BCS estimate were established with the Reference Value Advisor. One unit of BCS change was associated with 8.2 mm of BFT and 10.9 mm of LDT pre-and postpartum. Range of BFT and LDT in established RIs per BCS was wide with significant overlap. Both subcutaneous fat and, to a lesser degree, skeletal muscle reserves contribute to BCS estimation. Repeated BCS estimations credibly predict energy balance status in periparturient dairy cows. The metabolic state of muscle tissue should be assessed by repeated ultrasound measurements.
- Dairy cattle
- Longissimus dorsi