Body Condition Scores – or BCS – are the numbers used to “suggest the relative fatness or body composition of the cow,” according to animal science expert, and University of Arkansas Extension Specialist, Shane Gadberry, Ph.D. A good BCS for a cow should fall somewhere from five to seven, if she is at her optimum condition.
Most Body Condition reports use a range of one to nine. One would be a very thin cow, and nine would be an excessively fat cow. Scoring is done subjectively, but shouldn’t vary drastically if using the ‘one to nine’ system.
There are practical implications of body scores for farmers including how to keep cows in the ‘optimum condition’ range and how their body condition scores affect profit.
According to Gadberry, “Drastic changes in body condition should be avoided so that supplementation of the herd may be minimized.” The animal would need to be supplemented in order to bring her body condition back to a healthy range. For spring calving herds, he recommends checking the scores at midsummer, fall weaning, 60 days before calving, the beginning of breeding in the spring and at calving. Gadberry continued, “The condition of cows at breeding affects their reproductive performance in terms of services per conception, calving interval, and the percentage of open cows.”
“In commercial practice, body condition scoring can be carried out regularly and satisfactorily in circumstances where weighing may be impractical. The technique is easy to learn and useful when practiced by the same person in the same herd over several years.”
By The Numbers
1.    “Emaciated” – with bone structure easily visible.
2.    “Very thin” – with little evidence of fat deposits but some muscling in hindquarters.
3.    “Thin” – with fat beginning to cover over the loin, back and fore ribs.
4.    “Borderline” – where the fore ribs are not noticeable, but there’s a straightness of muscling in the hind quarter. 
5.    “Moderate” – 12th and 13th ribs aren’t visible and areas on each side of the tail head are fairly well filled but not mounded.
6.    “Good” – the ribs are fully covered and the hindquarter is plump and full.
7.    “Very good” – where abundant fat cover either side of the tail head and spaces between bones and joints can barely be distinguished.
8.    “Fat” – with the animal taking on a smooth, blocky appearance.
9.    “Very fat” – where the bone structure can not be seen or easily felt.
Trials have shown that too-thin cows can take longer to re-breed. With the negative effects on cattle and their reproductive tendencies based on their body scores, it’s important to correct body scores in order to achieve optimum profit in a herd.
Gadberry recommends dividing cattle into two groups (or more if is economically feasible). The first group should contain the cows in the three, four, and five BCS range, and the other in the six, seven and eight BCS range (as most animals will fall into these two categories). The first group should receive an improved ration, supplemental grain and improved forage, while the second group should remain on the same forage, unless there are a few very fat cows, in which case they can be separated out into a third group and receive a limited ration.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here