News & Advice

Body Condition Scoring in sheep (BCS)

Jul 1, 2017 | Dry stock, Sheep

Traditionally ewes are given a drench pre-lambing to help control Body Condition Scoring of sheep and cattle is a quick way of assessing the condition of your animals. It is much quicker than weighing and gives a more accurate picture of true condition. It can be very quickly picked up and a large number of animals can be scored in a short space of time. It gives you vital information that helps you control productivity.

Timing and BCS Targets in Sheep

Why perform BCS now?
It is easily performed as ewes enter the scanning crate, and it is simple to apply a paint mark or draft separately.
There is still time to correct low BCS ewes, but they need preferential treatment starting now. Any ewes with a BCS of less than 3 at scanning, especially multiples need to be drafted off, placed in smaller mobs, in the front of the rotation and drenched if necessary.
The target is for all ewes to be at a BCS of 3 at lambing; this will maximise lamb survival, ensure good milk production and therefore increase lamb weaning weights.

Why perform BCS now?
Ewes are being mustered anyway, and it is a good opportunity to sort mobs. Splitting flock post weaning is a good way to save on summer feed. Ewes in good condition now can be ‘held’ at maintenance, giving any extra feed to poorer animals with a BCS of less than 3, and drench if necessary.
The target is for all ewes to be at a BCS of less than 3 at mating, this will ensure good conception rates and viable pregnancies.

Generally, to increase BCS by 1 unit (i.e. 2.0 to 3.0), ewes need to gain 7 to 9kg of live weight. Depending on the time of year it can take up to 6 weeks to increase 0.5 condition score.
You need to be able to use the information you would gain by BCS to make management decisions, for example if you BCS at scanning and find you need to separate a group of low BCS multiple ewes, do you have the ability to have several groups running over the winter? You need to know why you are performing BCS and you need to be able to act on the results of what you find to make it worthwhile.

We are happy to come and teach everyone how to do it the next time you have the sheep in the yards. What most farmers find surprising is how quickly this procedure can be learnt and applied. When demonstrating the technique it usually takes 5 to 10 minutes to learn how to perform BCS and a pen of 30 ewes can be condition scored in about 1 minute. This makes it much quicker than weighing and a much better assessment of condition, the key driver of productivity.

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