Body condition scoring your cows

Measuring and managing body condition score - A key to managing your herd’s nutrition

Body condition scoring is a visual assessment of the amount of fat and muscle covering the bones of a cow, regardless of body size. It is not affected by gut fill or pregnancy as liveweight is. It involves assessing specific locations on the cow to determine how thin or fat the cow is. In Australia a 1 to 8 scoring system is used.

Assessing your herd’s body condition profile provides a standardised measure of your cows’ body energy (and protein) reserves at critical times during their lactation cycle, and tells you a lot about your herds': 

  • previous level of feeding,
  • likely future production and fertility, and
  • future feed requirement.

Effective management of body condition and nutrition improves herd reproductive performance, milk production and enhances cow health and welfare.

The 1 to 8 body condition scale

Different systems are used to body condition score dairy cattle and beef cattle. In Australia, an 8 point scale is most commonly used for dairy cattle: 

  • A cow with a BCS of 1 is considered extremely thin, the result either of severe under-feeding or disease. 
  • A cow with a BCS of 8 is considered extremely fat and is at risk of several metabolic diseases after calving.

Body condition scoring using this 8 point scale provides a quick, easy, consistent way to assess body condition in dairy cattle. Only cows with a BCS of 3 to 6 are shown in this booklet as healthy, productive cows in commercial dairy herds should always be within this range.

Dairy Australia has developed several tools to assist with assessing your herd’s body condition profile.

The body condition scoring app is a smart phone based tool for easily monitoring and managing your herd’s body condition profile.
The body condition scoring handbook is a guide to monitoring and managing your herd’s body condition profile.

The body condition scoring recording sheets can be used to manually record your herd’s body condition profile.

More information

Assessing a herd’s body condition and using results (PDF, 575KB)

Assessing a cow’s body condition score (BCS) provides a standardised measure of cows’ energy (and protein) reserves at critical times during their lactation cycle, and tells you a lot about a herd’s previous level of feeding, likely future productivity, and future feed requirements. Find out how to assess a herd's body condition and use the results.