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Body Condition Scoring
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Scoring System

Body condition scoring is a management tool that can help the cow/calf producer better utilize his year round feed supply and achieve better reproductive and calf rearing performance. Condition scoring allows you to place a relatively objective condition score to each of your cows. Depending upon their body fat covering, a number between 1 (very thin) and 5 (very fat) will be assigned. Lets look briefly at how this system works.

Back in the mid 70s, several researchers in Scotland created a system of condition scoring for application to beef cows. The system consists of five grades determined by appraisal of the fat cover over the loin area between the hook (hip) bone and the last rib. The system uses the following description for each score:

  • Score 1: Outline of the spine is very prominent and individual short ribs are sharp with no fat cover. Individual ribs and tail head are prominent.
  • Score 2: Short ribs have a rounded look but can still be felt. Individual ribs and tail head have some fat cover.
  • Score 3: Short ribs are felt with firm pressure, tail head has fat cover that is easily felt.
  • Score 4: Short ribs cannot be detected even with firm pressure, fatty deposits around tail head are quite obvious.
  • Score 5: Characteristic bone structure is no longer noticeable, flesh hangs from the tail head and mobility may be impaired.

It is quite reasonable that scores may fall between these values. In this case, an intermediate number is assigned (e.g. 2.5). Let's briefly look at where cattle should be for optimum production, based on calving season.

Practical Application

The management for condition scoring are broad and may be the subject of a following article. Briefly, they are:

  1. The establishment of' an objective scoring system eliminates the use of broad terms such as thin and fat". The system applies across breeds and herds. Individual condition records can be kept on a year round basis to determine the success of feeding/or general management changes.
  2. Condition scoring will increase awareness of winter feeding programs and the impact of body condition on reproductive management.
  3. Use body condition scoring as an indicator of management. Become aware of why your cows are thin (2.0 or less) or fat (3.5 or greater). Look at causative factors in management and know what the potential problems with each condition will be. Above all, strive to make positive management changes.

Remember that body condition problems will not only impact performance this year, but will also affect the calf and cows performance in the long term.