In order to increase performance in any flock, it is important to consider regular body condition scoring (BCS) in order to identify any drastic changes in ewe condition not noticeable through observation alone. Through this you can ensure that ewes are on target for the system and the time of year, and in turn will result in improved fertility, increased lamb performance and reduced incidence of metabolic diseases.
Target condition score will vary depending on the farm type, breed, and time of year and ewe prolificacy.
How to record BCS?
Making body condition score assessments is both quick and easy. Simply adhere to the following tips:
- Place a hand over and around the backbone and loin area behind the back rib and feel the amount of fat cover and muscle mass
- Feel for the sharpness of the spinous and transverse processes coming out from the spine
- Use the same hand to BCS all the ewes to reduce variability
- BCS should be carried out by the same person each time to reduce variability
The scoring scale used is 1 to 5, with 1 being thin and 5 being very fat. Half scores such as 2.5 or
3.5 can be used.
A simple chart (see below) can be used to record the BCS of a group and any shift that occurs between recording sessions, e.g. between weaning and tupping. Record the body condition of each sheep with an X. Once this has been done look at the range of Xs on the chart. In the example below, more ewes are in BCS 3 than any other BCS. However, the distribution of the X’s highlights that more ewes are below BCS 3 than above, resulting in the average being below 3.
- Spinous and transverse processes are prominent and sharp
- Fingers can be pushed easily below the transverse bone and each process can be felt
- The loin is thin with no fat cover
- Spinous and transverse processes are prominent but smooth
- Individual processes being felt only as corrugations
- Transverse processes are smooth and rounded, but it is still possible to press fingers underneath
- The loin muscle is a moderate depth but with little fat cover
- The spinous processes are smooth and rounded but the bone is only felt with pressure
- The transverse processes are also smooth and well-covered, hard pressure is required with the fingers to find the ends
- The loin muscle is full and with moderate fat cover
- The spinous processes are only detectable as a line
- The ends of the transverse processes cannot be felt
- The loin muscles are full and rounded and have a thick covering of fat
- The spinous and transverse processes cannot be detected even with pressure
- There is a dimple in the fat layers where the processes should be
- The loin muscles are very full and covered with very thick fat