Body Condition Scoring

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets.

  • Body condition scoring is a subjective, easy to learn, inexpensive, "hands on" method of determining the amount of fat an animal is carrying. Condition scoring is a better predictor of body energy content than visual "eyeballing."
  • Body condition, or the amount of body fat that an animal is carrying, is one management indicator that can be used to predict herd fertility and determine feeding programs.
  • The Canadian system rates animals from 1 (very thin) to 5 (grossly fat) and the American scale rates from 1 to 10. The fat cover over the tips of the short ribs is the major location on the animal's body used for condition scoring. Fat cover over the ribs and tail head is also used.
  • The scoring system allows individuals to speak the same language when describing body condition. Rather than using ambiguous rating terms such as "fat", moderate" or "thin" based on visual appraisal, condition scoring assigns a numerical rating based on the feel of your cows.
  • Fat on cow’s acts as an insulator against cold temperatures. The ability to withstand cold increases as cows carry more fat.
  • Fat levels on cows going into the winter will have a dramatic effect on the feeding options and respective costs. Cows going into the winter with extra fat will require less energy over the winter than cows going into the winter thin.
  • Cows carrying extra fat will allow the cow manager to “harvest” some of the fat over the winter months resulting in cows in adequate condition at calving time with lower winter feed costs.
  • Cows fed to lose one-half of a body condition score over the winter, will saving in winter feed costs. In contrast, cows fed to gain one-half of a body condition score over the winter, will have 20 to 30 per cent higher feed costs compared to those fed to maintain body condition.
  • Use Body Condition Scoring:
    • to measure the overall level of cow condition each fall and spring,
    • to recognize individuals that are thinner than the herd average,
    • to be able to group the cows into feeding groups
    • in order to maintain productivity economically.
  • Condition scoring cows in the fall allows you to estimate winter-feed requirements. Condition scoring cows in the spring allows you to evaluate the previous winters’ feeding program and to make necessary adjustments next year.
Fact Sheets

Basics of Body Condition Scoring - available in PDF format

Beef Cow Body Condition Management

Body Condition: Implications for Managing Beef Cows

Body Condition Scoring

Body Condition Scoring Your Cow Herd

Cow Body Condition Scoring Management Tool for Monitoring Nutritional Status of Beef Cows - available in PDF format

What's the Score? Body Condition Scoring for Livestock CD-ROM

Feeding Your Cows by Body Condition - available in PDF format

Managing Your Cow Herd Through Body Condition Scoring - available in PDF format

Thin Cows Require More Feed Over the Winter

Using the Net Energy (NE) System to Improve Body Condition Score - available in PDF format

Research Papers

A Review of Metabolic and Endocrinological Systems Governing Cow Body Weight and Body Condition in Lactating Beef Cattle

Effect of Fall Body Condition on Winter Feed Requirements of Wintering Beef Cows

Evaluation of Condition Scoring of Feeder Calves as a Tool for Management and Nutrition. - available in PDF format
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on March 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on May 23, 2018.

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