Body condition scoring in goats

Body condition scoring is a great way to evaluate the nutritional status of your goats.

Body condition scoring is a management tool that can be used to evaluate the nutritional status of animals. Body condition, or fat cover, is an indication of the energy reserves in an animal. Body condition scoring for goats uses a range from 1.0 to 5.0, with 0.5 increments. Healthy goats should have a body condition scoring between 2.5 to 4.0. Goats with a body condition scoring of 1.0, 1.5 or 2.0 indicate a management or health problem. A body condition scoring of 4.5 or 5 indicate an excessive amount of condition that could be detrimental to the goat’s health; these scores are very rarely observed in goat herds under a standard management system.

Michigan State University Extension advises that it’s important to note that body condition scoring cannot be assigned by simply visually evaluating an animal. The animal must be touched and felt in three specific areas of the body. The first is the lumbar area, which is the area of the back behind the ribs containing the loin. The second is the sternum, or breast bone, and the third is the ribs and intercostal (between the rib) spaces.

When palpating the lumbar area, you will be able to feel the lumbar vertebrae, which have a vertical protrusion called the spinous processes, and two horizontal protrusions called the transverse process. By running your hand over this area, try to gently grasp the processes with your fingertips and hand. Moving to the sternum and the rib cage, you must feel the amount of fat cover in each of the areas.

Body condition score (BCS) ratings

  • BCS 1.0 = The goat is visually emaciated and weak. The backbone is highly visible and forms a continuous ridge. The flank is hollow and ribs are clearly visible. There is no fat cover and fingers can easily penetrate into the intercostal spaces.
  • BCS 2.0 = The goat’s backbone is still visible with a continuous ridge. Some ribs can be seen and there is a small amount of fat cover. Ribs are still felt and intercostal spaces are smooth, but can still be penetrated.
  • BCS 3.0 = The backbone is not prominent, ribs are barely discernible and an even layer of fat covers the ribs. Intercostal spaces are felt using pressure.
  • BCS 4.0 = The backbone and ribs cannot be seen. The side of the animal is sleek in appearance.
  • BCS 5.0 = The backbone is buried in fat and the ribs are not visible. The rib cage is covered with excessive fat.

For more detailed descriptions for how to determine body condition scores, visit Langston University’s publication, “Body Condition Scores in Goats.”

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