Body Condition Scoring Basics

Body Condition Scoring is important for livestock operators because it gives them an opportunity to observe and determine whether their animals are gaining or losing weight. Body condition scoring is a measurement, or estimation, of the relative amount of fat that an animal has.

According to research, the fertility and post-calving recovery of a cow is directly related to the amount of fat she has on her body, in other words, her body condition.  When we give an animal a body condition score, we are looking at three key areas: the backbone, the rump, and the ribs.


A good first step for determining a body condition score, is to look at the cow’s top line, or their back bone. This is one of the first places the muscle and body tissue are metabolized when an animal has a deficient diet in protein and energy.  A cow that has a flat to mushy backbone is very high in body condition score, from a five to a seven. They start to drop below a five in to a four, three, or two when the backbone is beginning to show what we term an “inverted v”. This is where the bones of the vertebrae begin to be prominent. How prominent those are is going to be a good indication as to where they are with their body condition score.


Next, look at their rump because that rump is a very large protein mass but it is also a big deposit area for fat. As you go through the winter, the rump diminishes in size. That is a very good indication that that animal is losing weight and dropping lower in their body condition score.


Finally, look at their ribcage. If you can count the ribs on a cow, they are beginning to be thin and moving from a body score of five into a four or a three. The more prevalent the ribs, the lower the body condition score.

Using these three keys, the backbone, rump, and ribcage, to monitor the relative amount of fat on a cow, you can develop your own technique for determining body condition scores. Then you use that information to adjust your supplement levels. If they are losing weight at a more rapid level than you need, you can step up the energy and protein intake in order to slow the weight loss down or even eliminate it.

To speak to one of our range management specialists or to learn more about which mineral and supplement program is right for your operation, please contact us at 806-250-2791.

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