Body Condition Scoring
Body condition scoring (BCS) is a simple, fast method of assessing the overall condition, or the thinness or fatness, of your goats. It provides an indication of available fat reserves that can be used by the animal in periods of high energy demand, stress, or suboptimal nutrition and allows producers to make better management decisions.
Goats should be maintained with a moderate amount of body condition. When overall body condition starts to decrease in the herd and goats become too thin (under-conditioned), it is a sign that managerial intervention is needed such as supplemental feeding, deworming, pasture rotation, etc. Conversely, when overall body condition starts to increase in the herd and animals carry too much fat (over-conditioned), it is a sign that the producer should reduce supplemental feeding.
Ignoring an animal’s body condition and waiting to intervene until goats become either too thin or too fat may result in production and(or) animal losses or decreased profits from overfeeding. Therefore, producers need to develop skills in assessing body condition of their goats so that a desired moderate body condition can be maintained. With practice, evaluating the BCS of an animal will only take about 10-15 seconds. By adding BCS as a regular part of your management program, you can more effectively monitor your feeding and herd health program for a healthy and productive herd.
How to Body Condition Score
Scoring is performed in goats using a BCS ranging from 1.0 to 5.0, with 0.5 increments. A BCS of 1.0 is an extremely thin goat with no fat reserves and a BCS of 5.0 is a very over-conditioned (obese) goat. In most cases, healthy goats should have a BCS of 2.5 to 4.0. Scores of 1.0, 1.5, or 2.0 indicate a management or health problem. Scores of 4.5 or 5 are rarely observed in goats under normal management conditions; however, these scores can sometimes be observed in show goats.
Three areas are evaluated in assigning a BCS: the lumbar region, or area containing the loin muscle; the sternum; and the rib cage.
Scoring in the lumbar area is based on determining the amount of muscle and fat cover over the vertebrae. Lumbar vertebrae have a vertical protrusion (spinous process) and a horizontal protrusion (transverse process). Both processes are used in determining BCS. Run your fingertips over the spinous process to feel for the vertebrae. Try to grasp the spinous process between your thumb and forefinger. Use your whole hand to feel the loin muscle and fat cover. Try to slip your fingers underneath the transverse process.
A third area is the rib cage and fat cover over the ribs.