Calving time can be both a stressful and exciting time of year with your beef herd.

Despite the late hours, worries about weather, and that cow or two that never cooperates (every farm has one), calving season also represents the most optimistic aspect of farming — each calf represents a new opportunity for the future.

While breeding season is months down the road, the condition of your cows now can have a major impact on fertility and your 2014 calf crop.

It's no secret that the total body energy reserves of the cow play a major role in reproductive efficiency.

The best way for the manager to periodically estimate the energy reserves is to individually record body condition scores.

Beef producers typically use a 9 point scale with 1 being extremely thin, 9 being obese, and around 5 ideal. The challenge for you, the herd manager, is biology dictates that reproduction is relatively low on the list of energy priorities.

Maintenance, growth, lactation, and fetal growth all take priority over breeding. Furthermore, environmental stressors such as extreme cold, or wet and muddy conditions, can greatly increase maintenance energy requirements.

When energy intake is below what is required of the cow's needs, the cow will compensate by using stored body fat, which we can observe through declining body condition scores. The classic example of this is soon after calving, when the energy demands of lactation often exceed energy intake by the cow.

So what does this all have to do with reproduction, and why should you be monitoring body condition scores at calving?