Body Condition Scoring

Body Condition Scoring (BCS) measures the fat (energy reserves) and body of beef cattle. This is a subjective measurement taken by looking at 6 different areas of the cow focusing on the fat and muscle deposits – not the weight or coat. Since there is no clear way of measuring, it is best to have the same person do all BCS in order to ensure consistency across the scores and the herd. BCS focuses on the brisket, back, ribs, hooks, pins, and tail head of the animal (as seen in the picture).  

Body Condition is rated on a scale of 1-9. Measurements of 1-4 signify the cow is thin, often showing bones with little fat coverage. Measurements of 5-7 are the ideal body condition, with visible hips and perhaps a rib or two, but generally has an even covering of fat where needed. Scores of 8-9 mean the animal is over conditioned and overweight. The animal is flush with fat that bones aren’t really visible. Animals that have longer hair or their winter coats may need to be palpated in the 6 specific measuring areas to help determine their score. 

Body Condition Scores help to identify nutritional needs in the herd. With feed costing up to 60% of operating costs, having up-to-date BCS for animals helps the farmer know what sort of diet animals need to be fed to reach their ideal score. Keeping cows in that ideal range means they are healthy and will be more successful in breeding, birthing, and producing milk. This will, in turn, benefit the next generation of cattle being raised.

Body Condition Score should be measured before breeding, during gestation, and at calving. Cows will gain weight during gestation – but should be monitored that they don’t get over conditioned at this time. If BCS is ideal at calving time, the cow will likely need less time to recover before being able to breed again. Over or under conditioned cows will need to have their BCS corrected before they are at an ideal score where they may breed.


“Body Condition Scoring Beef Cows.” Virginia Cooperative Extension

Peck, Clint. “How to Body Condition Score.” Beef Magazine

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