Body Condition Score Charts Body Condition Score (BCS)

Udder Score Chart (can be used for dairy or beef cows)

Related Pages: Frame Score Charts
3 Methods to Measure Cattle (and newborn calves) for weight estimate
How to Age Cattle by their Teeth

Body Condition Score (BCS) charts come in 1--5 and 1--9 versions. The BCS is useful for predicting size & weight with frame scores in young cattle. BCS is used to adjust feeding strategies to reach optimal weight. It is also a standardized description for communicating with your veterinarian, buying or selling cattle and or other situations. Since body condition greatly affects reproductive performance as well as feed efficiency, knowing and monitoring BCS can influence a producer’s bottom line.


Body Condition Score (BCS) Chart
Beef Cattle 1 - 5 score illustration

BCS chart
above illustration from Queensland, Australia


Body Condition Score (BCS) Chart
Dairy Cattle 1 - 5 score illustration

bcs chart dairy
Dairy Cattle Body Condition Scoring Chart--Edmonson et al. 1989

bcs dairy cow

Body Condition Score (BCS) Chart
Beef Cattle 1 - 9 score

1. Emaciated Little muscle left
2. Very Thin
No fat, bones visible
3. Thin
Foreribs visible
4. Borderline Foreribs not visible, 12th & 13th ribs visible
5. Moderate
Neither fat nor thin
6. Good Smooth appearance
7. Very Good
Smooth with fat over back and tail head
8. Fat
Blocky. Bone over back not visible
9. Very Fat
Tail buried in fat


dat ass
(girl, when you know you're a 10...)


SEE ALSO: photo gallery showing Angus cows with BCS 3 - 9

SEE ALSO: Body Condition Scoring Beef Cows: A Tool for Managing the Nutrition Program for Beef Herds. University of Nebraska–Lincoln and County Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture. © 2007-2014 - pdf opens in new window



Body Condition Scores
more information

cow weights vary 7% to 8% per body condition score
cow weights vary up to 10% due to muscling type
If breeding at 14-15 months, (to calve at 24 mos) heifers should weigh 60 to 65% of their mature weight.
Formula to figure how much hay a cow needs in winter:
Take her body weight x .03 = minimum lbs. hay a day needed. Free choice in very harsh winter weather.

to Fatten ~ or too Fat

If pasture is rich and your mini cattle begin to get too fat, you will need to reduce the time they graze. When they are too fat, they could have trouble breeding or calving. In dairy or dual purpose cattle, over conditioning can lower milk production. In that case, reduce their time on rich pasture to approximately 6 hours a day. Experiment. Put them into a corral and feed hay the rest of the day or night.

How to use BCS to increase cattle fertility
Sadly, this article shows a cow with BCS #1

author has these articles In this article Julius Ruechel explores the powerful correlation between body condition at calving time and conception rates. He shares some management changes you can make on your farm to take advantage of this powerful correlation so you can increase conception rates in your herd while reducing your production costs at the same time.


Manual Fat Assessment:

The main areas to feel are the short ribs of the loin, over the long ribs and the tailhead.
Pinch out of a fold of skin next to the tail to feel how much fat there is. As the skin is about 6mm thick, deduct 12mm from the total thickness to estimate the fat thickness under the skin.

As cattle fatten:

  • Ribs become less visible
  • Tailhead softens with rounds of fat developing around the tail
  • Muscle seams of the hindquarter become covered with fat and are less evident when the animal walks
  • Brisket, flank, cod and twist all fill out giving the animal a rectangular appearance compared to the roundness of leaner, heavily muscled cattle

Visual Muscling Assessment:

Always assess fatness first - it is easy to be too generous in muscle scoring with very fat cattle.

While there is some debate as to the importance of carcass conformation or muscle shape, research has shown that retail yield increases 1.5% for each increase in live muscle score (not carcass muscle score) at the same live-weight and fatness.

Muscling is assessed into 5 scores, A to E, with A being the most muscular and E being to least muscular.

Muscle scores do not infer a quality standard but rather describe the thickness and shape of the muscle in relation to frame size.

Muscle score should always be compared within animals of similar age and frame type.

Heavily muscled cattle stand with their hind legs further apart that lighter muscled animals. From the side, observe curvature of the muscles of the thigh. Muscle seams are clearly evident in heavily muscled leaner cattle. Also observe the thickness of the forearm. Heavily muscled cattle have a more expressive forearm then more lightly muscled cattle.



From these data, expected progeny differences (EPDs) for calving ease direct and calving ease maternal, can be calculated. Scores of 5 should not be included in any formulas or evaluations, though, because abnormal presentations (backwards, breech, etc.,) are not believed to be heritable either as a trait of the calf or of the dam.

According to the BIF, several studies done at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC), Clay Center, Nebraska, Colorado State University, and the Miles City, Montana, Experiment Station, all proved that calving difficulty is influenced by many factors, however, the dam's age had a profound effect on the incidence of dystocia, citing, "first-calf, 2-year-old heifers represent the greatest source of trouble to the beef herd owner. Difficulty in 2-year-olds is three to four times as high as in 3-year-olds, and 3-year-olds have about twice as much difficulty as 4-year-olds. By the time a cow reaches 4 to 5 years of age, dystocia problems are minimal." Birth weight of the calf was the other trait most highly correlated with calving difficulty. Bulls that sire smaller calves are the safest to use on heifers; birth weight is moderately heritable (h2 = 0.37).




Udder Score Chart
for Dairy and Beef Cows

udder score chart - BIF

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(the calf was OK...)

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Texas Agricultural Extension Service • Texas A&M University • College Station, TX
2018 BIF Guidelines


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