NDSU Extension - Williams County


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Body Condition Score - December 22, 1016

County Agent Update

Danielle Steinhoff

Body Condition Score


There are several approaches and tools to help determine if the beef cow’s nutritional requirements and needs are being met. Some include testing feeds for nutritional content and visually evaluating cow appearance.  A standardized scoring system has been developed to rate a cow’s visual appearance from 1 to 9 based on body fat and fleshiness. Higher scores equate to higher condition and weight cows, reflecting current and past nutrition has supported weight gain and body maintenance. Low scores equate to thin cows which have likely utilized body energy reserves to meet requirements, and have likely been losing or have lost weight.


Cow weight and condition will fluctuate through the year associated with feeding level, pasture condition, and nutrient demands. Cow condition should be monitored as cows are observed. Cows noted to be losing weight or thin (BCS of 4 or less) in the fall need to start receiving supplemental feed and/or have calves weaned. Thin cows should be reconditioned prior to brutal cold winter and for optimum calf health and rebreeding to calve in smooth moderate flesh generally or BCS of 5 of for cows and 6 for heifers.


Here are some signs to help visually evaluation cows; moderate condition scoring cows (BCS 5) will be smooth in appearance and full in the quarter with only the last rib or two visible. As cows deposit fat and move to higher condition scores (BCS 6-7) they will become flat over the top line, have some fullness to the brisket, and patchiness over the pin bones. Conversely thin cows (BCS 3-4) will be sharp over the spine, with rib and hip bone structure easily visible. Very thin cows will also have lost muscling and become very flat or sunken in the rear quarter.


Generally, about 80 to 100 pounds of body weight is needed to move a cow up one numerical body score. Furthermore, under cold conditions, higher fleshed cows have reduced maintenance needs. NDSU Extension Service, breed association, and feed dealers have developed publications or computer apps defining body condition scoring. This information was gathered from John Dhuyvetter, Area Livestock Specialist, North Central Research Extension Center.


Annie’s Project

Just a reminder about the upcoming program North Dakota State University Extension Service Williams County will be hosting. Annie’s Project is an opportunity to empower women in agriculture to be better business partners through networks and by managing and organizing critical information. This is a six week course that is a discussion based workshop brining women together to learn from experts in production, financial management, human resources, marketing and the legal field. The program starts January 12th and ends February 16th, meeting weekly on Thursdays. Participation is required at all dates, for more information or to register please contact Desire’e Steinberger at 701-577-4595






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