Beginner s guide to body condition scoring
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Beginner’s Guide to Body Condition Scoring. A Tool for Dairy Herd Management Web Presentation Updated July, 2004. Using body condition scoring to fine tune herd nutrition and health management has become a widely accepted practice. This presentation is designed to

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Beginner’s Guide to Body Condition Scoring

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Beginner’s Guide to Body Condition Scoring

A Tool for Dairy Herd Management

Web Presentation

Updated July, 2004


  • 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


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


Goals of Body Condition Scoring

  • Early detection of potential health problems

  • Identify areas for improved feeding management

  • Improve herd health, production, reproduction, profitability


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


Areas to Evaluate

  • Rump / Pelvic Area

    • Tailhead

    • Hooks

    • Pins

    • Thurl

  • Loin

    • Short ribs

    • Spine


Rear View

Side View

Short Ribs

Hooks

Pins

Sacral Ligament

Thurl

Hooks

Tailhead Ligament

Thurl

Pins


(Spinous Process)

If an animal is grossly fat, the bone structure cannot be seen or felt through the fat. In thin animals, the bone structures are very prominent.

(Short Ribs)


Step-by-Step Process

  • See “Learn to Score Body Condition” presentation on the dairy nutrition website

  • 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


Extremely Fat

Extremely Thin


Examples of ScoresPresented to help you see the major differences – for a more detailed system of scoring, see “Learn to Score Body Condition”


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


BCS 1

Rear view

  • All boney prominences easily visible

  • Hooks, pins, spine, & ribs very sharp

  • Deep cavities around tailhead

  • Thin legs, poor muscle condition

Photo Not Available


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


BCS 2

  • Hooks, pins, & thurl prominent

  • Tailhead area somewhat hollow, but has modest covering of flesh


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


BCS 2.75

  • Hooks angular, but pins more rounded or padded with fat

  • Hollow below tailhead compared to a BCS 3


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


BCS 3

  • Hooks and pins rounded

  • No deep depressions or fat deposits around tailhead


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


BCS 3.25

  • Rounded hooks & pins

  • Sacral and tailhead ligaments visible


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


BCS 4

  • Hooks & pins rounded, but visible

  • Rump and thurl flat

  • Sacral and tailhead ligaments not visible


BCS 5: Severely Over-conditioned

  • Backbone not visible

  • Short ribs flat, bones not visible

  • Hooks and pins not visible

  • Flat over rump and tailhead


BCS 5

  • All boney prominences rounded and covered in fat

  • Tailhead buried in fat

  • Fat deposits readily seen on rump and legs


Summary

  • The body condition scoring scale

    • Under-conditioned cows = BCS 1

    • Over-conditioned cows = BCS 5

  • Determining a cow's BCS

    • Look at pelvic area and loin

    • Fat deposits become evident  cow is over conditioned

    • Bone structures become prominent  cow is thin


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