Body Condition Scoring
Body condition scoring is a simple, effective way to tell if your cow’s nutritional requirements are being met before and after she calves. We look at six key parts of her body. They are:
- How many ribs are showing?
- Is her backbone evident?
- How noticeable is the pelvic area?
- Does she have any fat at the base of her tail?
- How much muscle do we see in her shoulders and back legs (hindquarters)?
- Does she have any fat in the lower part of her chest or brisket?
The standard body condition score evaluation consists of nine scores. We will concentrate on the three most common. Our goal before calving for optimal milk flow to the calf and rapid rebreeding is a body condition score of 6.
Talking Points of the Beef Cow: To the left is a graphic that illustrates the talking points of this document.
Body Condition Score 9: (No graphic)
A cow like this is very obese and rarely seen. Description of 8 taken to greater extremes. There is a heavy deposition of udder fat.
|Body Condition Score 8: |
Obese, with a very square back, heavy fat pockets around tailhead, and the cow has square appearance due to excessive fat. The cow’s neck is thick and short. Miniature Hereford cows are easy fleshing and many blood lines will get obese if
fed grain or "cubes" regularly.
Shown here is a Black Angus - just a bock of fat. Probably unable to breed, or if so, trouble in calving smoothly.
Body Condition Score 7:
The cow exhibits very good flesh with a full brisket. Her tailhead shows pockets of fat, and her back appears square due to fat. The ribs appear very smooth and fleshy. This body condition is bordering on a difficult conception and delivery pattern. Most all "show" animals are targeting this and an 8 for best acceptability. However, this condition is NOT good on the general health, breedability or longevity of the cow.
It is better on the cow's health to be <6 than in this condition or higher.
Body Condition Score 6: Ideal
You notice that the cow has a good, smooth appearance throughout her body. She also has some fat in the chest or brisket area and at the base of her tail. She has no ribs that are visible.
For optimal calf growth and timely rebreeding, the cow must give birth in a body condition of 6 and have a body condition no lower than slightly less than 6 at time of breeding. At times during her life cycle, the cow may be of lesser body condition than the one described due to improper nutrition.
Body Condition Score 5: Moderate
A cow with a body condition of 5 is relatively thin. Two or three ribs are clearly showing. There is no evidence of any fat in the brisket, over the ribs, or at the base of the tail. The cow will still have some muscle in the shoulder and hindquarter area. Cows with a moderate body condition score may not produce adequate milk, so their calves will likely have reduced weaning weights. This condition calves and conceives easily.
Body Condition Score 4: Thin
A cow with a body condition of 4 is very thin, with all ribs showing. The backbone is very evident. Muscle over the shoulders and hindquarters is less than a body condition score of 5.
A body condition score of 5 or 4 will result in less milk available to the calf, smaller calves at weaning, delayed rebreeding and fewer cows to calve the following year.
Body Condition Score 3:
She is very thin, with no fat on ribs or brisket. The cow has some muscle still visible, and her backbone is easily visible.
Lack of energy in this condition hinders heat cycles, conception, milk production and quality.
Body Condition Score 2:
The cow is emaciated, similar to a cow with body condition 1, but not weakened. There is little visible muscle tissue.
Body Condition Score 1:
The cow is severely emaciated. All ribs and bone structure are easily visible and she is visibly weak.
Our thanks to: Dan E. Eversole, Extension Animal Scientist; Milyssa F. Browne, Graduate Student; John B. Hall, Extension Animal Scientist; and Richard E. Dietz, Graduate Student; Virginia Tech.
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