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Beginner's Guide to Body Condition Scoring


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Explanation of the body condition scale for dairy cattle, including numerous pictures of cows at different scores.

Animations in the presentation can be viewed by downloading the file.

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Beginner's Guide to Body Condition Scoring

  1. 1. Beginner’s Guide to Body Condition ScoringA Tool for Dairy Herd Management Web Presentation Updated July, 2004
  2. 2.  Using body condition scoring to fine tune herd nutrition and health management has become a widely accepted practice. This presentation is designed to  Introduce you to body condition scoring  Provide examples of cows scored 1 to 5
  3. 3. Evaluating Body Condition vs. Type Type evaluation (classification, judging) compares animals to the “ideal” conformation Body condition scoring considers the relative fatness or thinness of animals
  4. 4. Goals of Body Condition Scoring Early detection of potential health problems Identify areas for improved feeding management Improve herd health, production, reproduction, profitability
  5. 5. Body Condition Scoring Visual and tactile evaluation of body fat reserves Indication of energy balance Scale of 1 to 5, increments of 0.25 Body Condition Score = BCS  BCS 1 = emaciated cow (too thin)  BCS 3 = average body condition  BCS 5 = excessively fat cow
  6. 6. Areas to Evaluate Rump / Pelvic Area  Tailhead  Hooks  Pins  Thurl Loin  Short ribs  Spine
  7. 7. Side View Rear View Short Ribs HooksPins Sacral Ligament Thurl Hooks Tailhead Ligament Thurl Pins
  8. 8. (Spinous Process) If an animal is grossly fat, the bone structure cannot be seen or felt through the fat. In thin animals, the(Short Ribs) bone structures are very prominent.
  9. 9. Step-by-Step Process See “Learn to Score Body Condition” presentation from Penn State Not a perfect science  Scores should be similar (± 0.25)  When measured on one animal or  When measured by different people  Separates average condition from extremes
  10. 10. Extremely Fat Extremely Thin
  11. 11. Examples of ScoresPresented to help you see the major differences – for a more detailed system of scoring, see “Learn to Score Body Condition”
  12. 12. BCS 1: Severely Under-conditioned  Side view  Bones of tailhead easy to see  Prominent backbone  Tips of short ribs are clearly visible  Hooks, thurl, and pins very prominent Photo Not Available
  13. 13. BCS 1Rear view  All boney prominences easily visible  Hooks, pins, spine, & ribs very sharp Photo Not Available  Deep cavities around tailhead  Thin legs, poor muscle condition
  14. 14. BCS 2: Severe Negative Energy Balance Tailhead prominent, limited skin cover Prominent backbone Limited skin cover on short ribs. From tip to spine, short ribs are visible ¾ of the distance Angular hooks and pins with prominent thurl
  15. 15. BCS 2 Hooks, pins, & thurl prominent Tailhead area somewhat hollow, but has modest covering of flesh
  16. 16. BCS 2.75: Slightly Thin Visible backbone Tip of short ribs smooth, but visible Hooks angular, but pins padded by fat V-angle formed between hooks, thurl, and pins
  17. 17. BCS 2.75 Hooks angular, but pins more rounded or padded with fat Hollow below tailhead compared to a BCS 3
  18. 18. BCS 3: Good Condition More flesh covering backbone Tip of short ribs smooth Hooks and pins rounded and smooth V-angle formed between hooks, thurl, and pins
  19. 19. BCS 3 Hooks and pins rounded No deep depressions or fat deposits around tailhead
  20. 20. BCS 3.25: Slightly Fleshy More flesh covering backbone Tip of short ribs very smooth Hooks and pins more rounded and smooth U-angle formed between hooks, thurl, and pins
  21. 21. BCS 3.25 Rounded hooks & pins Sacral and tailhead ligaments visible
  22. 22. BCS 4: Over-conditioned Backbone barely visible Short ribs very smooth, tips barely visible Hooks and pins very smooth, but visible Flat between hooks and pins
  23. 23. BCS 4 Hooks & pins rounded, but visible Rump and thurl flat Sacral and tailhead ligaments not visible
  24. 24. BCS 5: Severely Over-conditioned Backbone not visible Short ribs flat, bones not visible Hooks and pins not visible Flat over rump and tailhead
  25. 25. BCS 5 All boney prominences rounded and covered in fat Tailhead buried in fat Fat deposits readily seen on rump and legs
  26. 26. Summary The body condition scoring scale  Under-conditioned cows = BCS 1  Over-conditioned cows = BCS 5 Determining a cows BCS  Look at pelvic area and loin  Fat deposits become evident  cow is over conditioned  Bone structures become prominent  cow is thin