Beef cow body condition scoring | Living the Country Life
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Beef cow body condition scoring

Rate your cows to ensure they're in the best shape possible.

You want to make sure cows are getting the right nutrition – especially before they calve. Body condition scoring is a helpful re-breeding management tool.

Rick Rasby is a beef cattle specialist with the University of Nebraska. He says by rating the condition of the cow's body, you'll have an idea of how she'll perform at calving and also during the next breeding season.

"Most folks in the beef cattle business will use a condition scoring system that is the 1-to-9 system where one is a very thin and emaciated animal, and nine is a very fat and obese animal," says Rasby. "Now when we say "condition", basically what we're saying there is that you're really measuring the amount of fat that an animal's carrying."

Data indicates that if spring-calving cows have a condition score of five, production will probably be good the next breeding season. Rasby says heifers calving for the first time should have a score of six.

The best time to check a cow's body condition is 90-to-100-days prior to calving, and then again at weaning. You don't need a professional to do it; you can train yourself with modules online, focusing on certain parts of the body.

"The brisket, the ribs, over the back, the hooks, the pins, and the tail head area, and estimate the amount of fat in those areas," says Rasby. "As you would expect, as you move from a condition score one up to a condition score nine, fat increases in all those areas."

As an example, Rasby says an optimal cow at the time of calving won't have a lot of fat on her brisket. You can see her 12th-and-13th ribs, but she has fat cover up to those ribs.  You can't see her backbone, but she'll have just a slight amount of fat around the tail head area.    

You may have to physically handle the cow, so the safest way by putting the cow in a chute.

Find video clips and more information on body condition scoring

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