Body condition scoring
• Body condition scoring is an important management practice used by
• as a tool to help optimize production,
• evaluate health, and assess nutritional status.
• This practice helps evaluate their herd or flock as to the amount of body
reserves, particularly fat and muscle, an animal possesses.
• The most critical times to body condition score animals during the
production cycle include :
4. and weaning.
The graph illustrates normal changes in desired body
condition scores for beef through a production cycle
• Body condition scoring is often done by careful visual examination, although
palpation of the animal may be necessary when long hair or wool is present.
• Evaluations look at the amount of muscle and fat cover in eight important
anatomical points when assigning a body condition score.
• 1 to 9, which is the American scoring system (or some refer this as the Beef
Cattle scoring system); or
• 1 to 5, which is the Scottish (or Canadian) scoring system, or, for some, the Dairy
Cattle scoring system.
• One (1) refers to extreme emaciation, and 5 (or 9) refers to overly fat or obese.
Examining the Animal
• the evaluator must concentrate on the amount of muscle present, skeletal
features, and fat cover in eight important anatomical points :
• brisket (sternum),
• loin (lumbar vertebra), hooks, stifle, tail
• head, and pins.
Difficulty of evaluation
• three factors must be considered when body condition scoring an animal.
1) • Gut fill, including stage of pregnancy.
2) • Amount of hair or wool.
3) • Amount of muscle.
Description of Body Condition
Scores for Beef Cattle and Horses
Condition Score 1: Severely Emaciated
• The spinous processes show no fat cover , are very prominent and sharp .
• The ribs and bone structure are visible with no fat cover .
• the tail head is very prominent .
• There is severe muscle loss in the shoulder, loin, and hind regions.
Condition Score 2: Very Thin
• There is more fat cover over the ribs and backbone, but space is still visible
between the vertebra.
• The tail head is less prominent .
• there is still muscle loss.
Condition Score 3: Thin
• The spinous processes are still visible, but less sharp.
• There is less space between the vertebra.
• more fat cover along the entire backbone.
• The loin muscle has more depth, but there is no obvious fat cover .
• there is only slight muscle loss.
Condition Score 4: Slightly Thin
• There are no spaces between the vertebra .
• the spinous processes are no longer visible, but can be palpated with little
• The last 2 to 4 ribs and the hipbones are still visible.
• Fat covers the loin and shoulder,
• and the animal has no muscle loss.
Condition Score 5: Moderate or Average
• There is just the right amount of fat cover over the shoulders, ribs, loin, and
tail head .
• The spinous processes can be palpated with a little pressure.
• Only the last two ribs are visible .
• the loin is filled.
• There is little fat in the brisket and over the hooks and pins.
Condition Score 6: Slightly Fleshy
• The spine is palpated with moderate pressure,
• the hindquarters have become slightly rounded.
• There is visible fat in the brisket and around the tail head .
• All ribs, the loins, shoulders, and fore ribs are covered with fat.
Condition Score 7: Fleshy
• The entire animal appears smooth.
• The spine can be felt with significant pressure.
• There is fat that fills the brisket, flanks, and tail head.
• There is more fat cover over the shoulder, loins, and fore ribs.
Condition Score 8: Fat (Obese)
• The animal appears square.
• The tail head is embedded in fat, and the flanks and brisket appear to be full.
Condition Score 9: Extremely Fat
• There is no visible bone structure or definition in the muscles.
• The spine cannot be felt.
• The brisket is filled with fat,
• and the neck appears shorter due to the deposition of fat.
• The loin, hip, and tail head have a rippled look due to the excess fat
Condition Score 1
• This cow is emaciated.
• The ends of the short ribs are sharp to the touch and together give a prominent
shelf-like appearance to the loin.
• The individual vertebrae (spinous processes) of the backbone are prominent.
• The hook and pin bones are sharply defined.
• The thurl region and thighs are sunken and in-curving.
• The anal area has receded and the vulva appears prominent.
Condition Score 2
• This cow is thin.
• The ends of the short ribs can be felt but they and the individual vertebrae
are less visibly prominent.
• The short ribs do not form as obvious an overhang or shelf effect.
• The hook and pin bones are prominent but the depression of the thurl
region between them is less severe.
• The area around the anus is less sunken and the vulva less prominent.
Condition Score 3
• A cow in average body condition.
• The short ribs can be felt by applying slight pressure.
• The overhanging shelf like appearance of these bones is gone.
• The backbone is a rounded ridge and hook and pin bones are round and
• The anal area is filled out but there is no evidence of fat deposit.
Condition Score 4
• A cow in heavy condition.
• Individual short ribs can be felt only when firm pressure is applied.
• Together they are rounded over with no shelf effect.
• The ridge of the backbone is flattening over the loin and rump areas and rounded
over the chine.
• The hook bones are smoothed over and the span between the hook bones over the
backbone is flat.
• Area around the pin bones is beginning to show patches of fat deposit.
Condition Score 5
• A fat cow.
• The bone structure of the topline, hook and pin bones and the short ribs is
• Fat deposits around the tailbone and over the ribs are obvious.
• The thighs curve out, the brisket and flanks are heavy and the chine very