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Cow Condition Scoring

Body condition scoring is a subjective “hands on” method of determining the amount of fat a cow is carrying over the short ribs (loin area), upper spine, hooks and pins and either side of the tail head. A good explanation can be found at

Using your thumb, apply pressure to the short ribs on the right side of the animal (when viewing from the rear). By moving your thumb up and down over the ribs, and also between the ribs, an estimated body condition score can be determined. A thin cow will have very little fat over the ribs and they will feel sharp to the touch. There will be a significant depression between the ribs. A cow in good condition has ribs that are not sharp to the touch and there is a slight depression between the ribs. An overfat cow has more fat over the ribs and it will be difficult to feel the ribs even with significant pressure and there will be no depression between the ribs.

Cow condition should be evaluated two to three months prior to calving. When administering vaccines or when the animals are in the chute, palpate 10% of the herd to get an overall evaluation. Looking at the animals may provide an estimate, but with the long winter hair coat it is difficult to be accurate.

Once the condition of the animals is determined, thin animals should be separated out from the main herd and fed separately to improve their condition prior to calving. A higher grain ration is required for animals to gain weight. Placing the thin animals in with the growing replacement heifers or bred heifers is an option if pen space is limited.

When looking at information on various websites; the Canadian system uses a scale of 1 to 5 whereas the American system uses a scale of 1 to 9.

For additional information on body condition scoring, contact Barry at 403-741-6032.


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