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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

December 6, 2023 - 9:00am --

I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  We traveled back to West Virginia over the holiday and enjoyed the opportunity to spend a few days with our kids and the rest of the extended family.  Thanksgiving week is the start of deer firearms season in WV and we took our opportunity to hunt on Friday.  My son Tylor got a nice 7 point and my brother got a 9 point.  Both happened within 30 minutes, and 100 yards, of each other.  My daughter Olivia joined the party this year, but unfortunately see didn’t see anything.  Fortunately, she has another weekend to get her opportunity.

Last week we discussed matching the quality of your forages to the needs of your livestock.  As part of that discussion, we touched on the animal’s utilization of the available nutrients.  To recap, when an animal takes a bite of a forage, it’s body must decide how to use those nutrients.  What happens with the nutrients in each bite is dependent on what the body is being asked to do.  This nutrient partitioning follows a hierarchy, which follows a reasonably expected pattern.  The last use of the nutrients is to deposit subcutaneous fat, and because of this we can use body condition scoring as an effective tool to determine if we are meeting the nutritional needs of our livestock.

Body Condition Scoring (BCS) is a linear scale that rates the fat cover on an animal.  You will find published scales that ask you to rate animal from a 1 to a 5, or a 1 to a 9.  The idea is that on the low end, a score of 1, you want to picture an animal that is completely emaciated.  This would be an animal that we would call “skin and bones”.  There is no observable fat cover, you can see all of its skeletal structure, and there may even be muscle lost.  On the top end of the scale, you have an animal that we would call morbidly obese.  They have copious amounts of fat over their entire body, giving them a very rounded appearance.  You won’t be able to see any of their bone structure, the tailhead will be concealed with excess fat and their brisket will be full.  I often tell producers that it doesn’t matter what the official scale is, you can even create your own.  The goal is to have the two extremes on each end of your scale, and for you to be consistent with how you score each animal.  At a minimum you should score each of your animals about three times a year.  These should be around breeding, giving birth, and when their offspring is weaned.  Dairies should be scoring each month and for our male livestock you should consider scoring them twice a year, being a couple months before breeding season and immediately after.

The big question is what is the target score.  On average, you want your animal’s to be in the middle of your scale.  This way they are not too thin or too fat.  There are times that it is acceptable for your animals to be a little too thin or too fat.  If we use a scale of 1 to 5, and we would like our animals to average a score of 3, we would like them to be a 3.5 or 4 just prior to giving birth.  We know that lactation is a huge energy drain and expect them to lose body condition while they are nursing.  We want to plan for them to be a half to a whole point above average when giving birth, knowing they will lose a point during lactation.  It is ok to be a 3.5 and loose down to a 2.5.  What we don’t want is them to be a 3 and loose down to a 2, or even worst to be a 2.5 or less and loose down to a 1.5 or less.  Consistently, and frequently, scoring your animals allows you to tailor your nutrition program to prepare them for the next challenge of the production cycle and allows you to keep them as healthy, productive, members of your herd or flock.

I want to continue to remind you of the planned OSU Extension programs, locally, and around the state. Many of you may be in need of recertification for your private pesticide and/or fertilizer applicators license.  You can find a complete list of opportunities by visiting the OSU Pesticide Education Website at  Click on the private applicator tab at the top of the page and select “pesticide recertification”.  You can then find a list of programs offered in our region of the state.  Also on the state level, the OSU Extension farm office team will be hosting a Basics of Grain Marketing Workshop on February 8th and 9th at the OSU Extension office in Marysville, OH.  The 3 day event is limited to 35 participants and cost $100 per person.  You can register by going to and selecting “Grain Marketing Workshop” from the “Grain Marketing Tab”.  On a local level, we also will be hosting an advanced commodity marketing conference beginning on February 7th at the Buckeye Ag Museum.  Our event will be held on day each week during February and will feature the top marketing experts from around the country.  The program agenda and registration materials will be available in early December. 

As always, If you have questions about your forages, or any other livestock or farm business questions, please feel free to contact me at the OSU Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722, or email me at  I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope that you have a safe harvest.

John Yost is an Extension Educator IV, Agriculture and Natural Resources, at OSU Extension-Wayne County.
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.