Rate Your Cattle Quickly With A Body Conditioning Score

BCS determinations are a good way to quickly assess your cattle's nutrition status.

Published on: Nov 15, 2012

Pasture growth will obviously decline during the winter months and that means cattle that graze it are likely decline, too, in terms of nutrition and body condition. North Carolina State University professor and animal scientist Matt Poore says it is important for producers to keep their eye on their cattle and thus, make sure their nutritional needs are being met. One of the best ways to do this is through Body Condition Scoring (BCS).

Body Condition Scoring uses a scale from 1 to 9 to determine the nutritional status of cattle. Cows with a score of 1 are emaciated, weak and close to death," says Poore, "and cows with a score of 9 are extremely obese, representing the most unhealthy extremes."

Cow with a BCS5 rating. This is a moderate rating. Photo courtesy of Matt Poore.
Cow with a BCS5 rating. This is a moderate rating. Photo courtesy of Matt Poore.

Generally, the goal for the producer is to have most of their cows scoring in the range between 5 (moderate condition) and 7 (fleshy).

Poore notes there is typically a 50-75 pound range between each condition score. He notes  body condition scoring should be done at two-month intervals during winter; more often in extremely cold or damp conditions. With practice, producers can develop a knack for determining BCS, so they can check on their latest assessments each time they check their herd.

Following is Body Condition Scoring Chart, adapted from a report by Onslow County, N.C., Extension agent, Melissa E. Huffman, which producers can study and use as a guide:

Body Conditioning Scoring Guide
BCS 1 Extremely thin. Extremely thin and weak, near death.

BCS 2 Extremely thin. Extremely thin but not weak.

BCS 3 Very thin. All ribs visible. Spinous processes prominent and very sharp. No fat cover felt with some muscle wasting.

BCS 4 Slightly thin. Most ribs visible. Spinous processes sharp. Individual processes can be easily felt. Slight fat cover can be felt over the eye muscle.

BCS 5 Moderate. Spinous processes felt but are smooth. Some fat cover felt over eye muscle.

BCS 6 Good. Smooth look with ribs not very visible. Spinous processes smooth and round. Individual processes very smooth, felt with considerable pressure. Significant fat cover felt over eye muscle.

BCS 7 Fat. Ribs not visible, spinous process felt under firm pressure. Considerable fat felt over eye muscle.

BCS 8 Obese. Animal is very fat with spinous processes that are difficult to feel. Ribs cannot be felt. Animal has blocky obese appearance.

BCS 9 Extremely obese. Similar to an eight but more exaggerated. Animal has deep patchy fat over entire body.

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