Body Condition Scoring

The red meat sector always seems to be waiting for the next big thing or looking around the corner for the next game changer. History has shown us this method does not deliver as promised most of time, and there are significant gains to be made within the farm gate before we need to go looking outside it.

As scanning approaches, there is an opportunity to Body Condition Score (BCS) ewes as they go through the scanning crate rather than use the eye-o-meter.

Historically we have used the eye-o-meter as a great tool to take off the obvious ewes that are either mud fat or very skinny during the winter. However, don`t assume how they look correlates to a good ewe condition.  Several farmers have been disappointed once they have put a hand on their ewes. Body condition scoring is a skill that is learnt so if you haven’t had the opportunity to be shown how to do it properly, I encourage you to hunt out someone who has, and learn from them. It will be the best hour of your time you will have invested that week.

At scanning we can use the rule of thumb to draft off ewes that are BCS 3 or better and those BCS less than 2.


Winter feed is a precious resource so needs to be consumed as efficiently as possible. Consider a mob of 1,000 ewes with 50% under BCS 3.0 on 30 March. Each ewe requires approximately 30 kgDM above maintenance to lift their condition by one BCS. You’ll therefore use 30,000 kgDM over and above their maintenance feed to lift the entire mob one BCS.  If, however, we can identify just those ewes in the mob that are less than BCS 3 and focus on feeding them above maintenance, it will halve the feed used to 15,000kgDM.

The aim is to set stock ewes for lambing at BCS of 3 or better. This has many positive benefits particularly with multiple bearing ewes. Some of the key benefits are:

  • A reduction in ewe deaths over lambing
  • Increased lamb survival
  • Increased lamb weaning weights

When these benefits are summarised financially, the potential additional revenue on average equates to around $34,000. Some farmers say, “I haven`t got time to body condition score the ewes –  it`s just extra work”. Body condition scoring can happen when the ewes are already in the yards for scanning, so we need to challenge ourselves when saying we haven’t got time. Perhaps it’s more a case of we’ve never been taught to do it, so until now have been unsure how to include it into our system and seeing the worth in doing it.

If we said that we will give you $34,000 for one day’s work would you turn that down?

Option 1 – check out the ‘how to body condition score’ video from Beef and Lamb HERE.

Option 2 – find a local farmer who you know uses body condition scoring and see if you and maybe some mates could go and learn from them.

Option 3 – find out when Beef and Lamb New Zealand will be running another body condition scoring workshop in your region.