Body condition scoring is a really quick, cheap and easy way to assess how your ewe flock is going. It gives you the ability to compare your flock without having to worry about factors such as breed, live weight, frame, gut fill and stage of pregnancy. Done at key times during the year, it can increase your production significantly by increasing the kilograms and number of lambs weaned per hectare and increasing weaning weights of these lambs.
Ideally you should be BCS every time the ewes are in the yards, but the key times in which it is most important are weaning, 6 weeks prior to mating, and scanning. By doing it at these times, you allow yourself time to get those ewes that are below the optimum (BCS 3) to the optimum before events such as mating and lambing. This allows a better conception rate and larger lambs weaned. Some farms have drastically increased their scanning percentages simply by adding in BCS to their animal health calendars and keeping records of these for culling purposes.
So how do we do this magical BCS and is it really as quick and easy as we say it is?
The most important aspect of BCS is that you put your hand on EVERY animal as they go through the yards. This involves placing your hand on their back, behind the 13th rib (where the long ribs end and the short ribs start) and pushing your fingers under the short ribs while putting one finger on the spine. The scale ranges from 1-5 depending on what you feel (see table below). The aim is to have ALL of you ewes at a 3 all year round. This is especially important at mating. A ewe with a BCS of 3 will better withstand any stressors put on them such as weather changes at mating.
So to conclude, by adding body condition scoring to your animal health plan and aiming to have all of your animals at a BCS of 3, you can increase the profitability of your animals by giving yourself the ability to make better decisions around preferential feeding and culling. If you are interested in having some on-farm training, get in contact with us. We have people trained up that would be more than happy to run a tutorial for you and your staff.
- Angela Wright