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Best Practice


What is a Condition Scoring1?

  • An assessment of an animal's condition based on estimated fat reserves on certain body parts
  • Estimate of fat reserves is independent of size and more reliable than live weight alone
  • One condition score = 50-80 kg live weight (depending on size of cattle)

Why are condition scores important?

  • Key indicator of cow's reproductive performance1
  • Managing condition scores help to manage feed requirements1
  • Maintaining condition scores by matching nutrient requirements with pasture availability and increased fertility1
  • Cattle with good body fat stores are more resistant to nutritional stresses1,2

Condition Scoring


Know the condition scores of your animals and predict future condition scores to help prevent decreases in productivity

How do condition scores impact my herd1,3?

Reproductive performance depends on herd's condition scores

Poor nutritional management may lead to production inefficiencies:

greater foetal size, leading to, increased risk of dystocia (difficult calving)

metabolic disorders

reduced milk supply

reduced fertility (low semen quality and unfit bulls)

delayed return to cycling

How do I determine the condition score

Condition scoring takes practice but is not difficult4

Feel around lower backbone region ("short ribs") to detect fat reserves

Also feel for fat levels around the top of the tail (the tail head)2

Where to feel for fat reserves to determine condition score

Fat Reserves

Adapted from Parish and Rhinehart 20087

What am I feeling for?


Place fingers flat over short ribs and press firmly into ends of short ribs
Condition score depends on how easy it is to feel individual short ribs with the thumb6
Press in with thumb to feel fat reserves over short ribs


Also feel tail head with fingers and thumb to determine fat reserves6

How is condition scored

Condition rating


Losing 2 kg/day may not be noticeable but over a month, this equates to slipping one whole condition score (50-80 kg)! Record condition scores to identify changes over time and help prevent reproductive inefficiencies7


Is condition score 3 and falling? Consider early weaning/supplementary feeding/herd segregation to prevent condition score falling below 2.5


Maintaining condition score is critical for fertility in bulls:

• Over-fatness (condition score 4 or 5) interferes with heat exchange in the testicles, leading to, infertility1

• Poor condition in months prior to mating, leading to, poor quality semen, poor fertility, low conception rates1

Putting Condition Scores into Practice



Ensure good nutrition during late pregnancy – Suboptimal condition scores and prolonged interval between calving and first oestrus cycle8.

When to assess condition score

How do condition scores affect reproductive performance?

Heifers need to be in good condition before calving to have sufficient reserves to provide milk for their calf and become pregnant again while lactating
Assessing condition scores/feed requirements helps achieve pregnancy rates in first-calf heifers equal to rest of the herd

Condition Scores – Key Points

Condition score is a key indicator of reproductive performance7
Condition scores help manage feed requirement1
Assess condition score at the short ribs and tail head6
Assess and record condition scores at least monthly (depending on stage of production)6
Use condition scores to allow timely intervention/correction of nutritional issues and to optimise reproduction.

Condition Score

So what are the recommendations?

Closely monitor and manage the body condition score as this is a key driver of reproductive performance.

To maximise your investment in genetics, pasture improvement and disease control, ensure that nutritional management of your herd is correct by monitoring body condition score throughout the year, taking corrective action where necessary.

Zoetis also has a range of vaccines to improve reproductive outcomes

(Ultravac® 7-in-1, Pestigard® and Vibrovax®) and parasiticides (Dectomax®) which are critically important to achieve the overall goal of a healthy, productive and profitable herd

Thank you

Zoetis Australia would like to thank and acknowledge the contribution and review of content provided by the ReptoActive Steering committee.

Dr John Wedd Ware

Senior Consultant, Mackinnon Project, Faculity of Veterinary Science, University of Melbourne, VIC

Dr Rod Manning

Davilak Pastoral Co, cattle consultant for M.S & A, Mansfield, VIC

Mr Mark Lucas

Consulting Agronomist, Rural Business Consultant, Pasture Agronomy Service, Tumut, NSW

Dr Bill Graham BVSc.

Beef Cattle Consultant, Coolac Veterinary Services Coolac, NSW

Mr Bill Hoffman

Managing Director, Hoffman Beef Consulting Pty Ltd, Tregeagle, NSW

Dr David Frith BVSc. MVSt.

Director of Quirindl Veterinary Group, Quirindl, NSW


For further information please refer to the following Tech Note:

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Tech Note

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1. More Beef from Pastures. Module 6: Weaner throughput. 2013. Meat and Livestock Australia,
2. Weekly Times Now. The Livestock Doc: Condition scores. 2013. Available from Accessed March 2014. 
3. Hurst R. Weaning beef calves. Agfact A2.5.7, 2000. New South Wales, Department of Primary Industries, 2007.
4. Weekly Times Now. Changing animals’ condition score. 2013. Available from Accessed March 2014.
5. Parish JA and Rhinehart JD. (2008) Body Condition Scoring Beef Cattle. Mississippi State University.
6. Department of  Environment and Primary Industries. Condition scoring of beef cattle. 2006. Available from Accessed March 2014.
7. Feed.FIBRE.future. Are my beef cattle at the right condition score? 2007. Dairy Australia
8. DeRouen SM et al. J Anim Sci 1994; 72: 1119–1125.

Further Reading

A Better Way To Buy