Body Condition Scoring

As breeding season wraps up and weaning time approaches, it is a good time to think about body condition scoring your bulls and cows. A body condition score (BCS) is based on a scale of 1 to 9 with a BCS 1 being extremely thin and a BCS 9 being extremely obese. The optimal score is a BCS 5 up to a BCS 6. A cow in a BCS 5 would have the hooks, pins, and last two ribs visible, and no fat in the brisket area.

Bulls typically lose 100-300 pounds throughout the duration of the breeding season, as they have had to travel long distances to cover cows and for feed and water. By the time they have to be turned out again next spring, they should be in a BCS 6. Having a plan to ensure your bulls are back to this condition by next spring is important. Most mature bulls will do well on an all-forage diet; however, young bulls are still growing and should reach 75% of their mature body weight by the time they turn 2. These young bulls may need a higher plane of nutrition, especially if they’ve come out of the breeding season in rough condition.

Post-weaning is the most efficient and economical time to put weight and condition on cows that might be thin. Now that they are no longer lactating and they are in mid-gestation, their nutrient requirements are at their lowest of the production cycle. If you have any thin cows, post-weaning would be the time to sort them off and increase their plane of nutrition to put some condition on them.

Evaluating the BCS of your bulls and cows is a quick and easy tool to ensure your animals are in a nutritional status that will meet your production goals. If you have any questions, please contact the MSU Richland County Extension Office at 406-433-1206 or [email protected].


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