Body Condition Scoring of a Beef Herd

By Clyde Lane, Jr., Extension Beef Specialist Animal Science and published by University of Tennessee in Beef Cattle Time, Volume 24, Number 4, Fall 2006 - Body condition scoring (BCS) is a management practice all producers should perform. It provides the information needed to evaluate pasture and feeding programs. Since the BCS is linked to the productivity of the herd, it is important that animals be maintained in an acceptable body condition score.
calendar icon 1 November 2006
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The most widely used body condition scoring system is a 1 to 9 scale (Table 1) with “1” being extremely thin and “9” being obese (See table below). In general, body condition scores of one to four should be considered “thin,” five to seven to be in the “normal” range and eight and nine to be “fat.” In general if cows are too thin, they are likely to have trouble rebreeding and probably need improved forage or supplementation with concentrates. This is extremely important for first-calf heifers and bulls. Cows with a BCS of 5 may need some additional supplementation or plenty of stockpiled fescue or high quality pasture. Cows in the 6 or 7 range will need minimal adjustment in their nutritional program. Cows with an eight or nine body condition score are too fat.

It is not necessary to individually score each cow to come up with a body condition score for a herd.. A herd is managed as a group and changes in the feeding program are done on a herd basis. Decide on a body condition score that fits the majority of the animals. If most are in the 5 to 7 range, little nutritional adjustment is needed. Next take a look at those animals that are either too thin (BCS 1 – 4) or too fat (BCS 8 – 9). Some of these animals are too fat because they are not pregnant or failed to have a calf. They should be sent to market. If cows are too thin, a determination must be made as to cause and whether it can be corrected. Use the BCS as an indicator of the cow’s ability to wean a calf of sufficient weight and quality to make a profit.

Any animal that doesn’t fit the group should be considered for culling since it probably cannot be fed and managed individually.

November 2006
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