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Updated: August 11, 2017
Body condition scoring should be done with a combination of observation and palpation of the bony structures. Key areas to assess are the loin area just behind the ribs and in front of the pelvis. Within this area you want to evaluate fat presence between the boney projections from the vertebrae extending upward (dorsal spinous process) and laterally (transverse process or "short ribs") from the spinal column (see pictures in figure). In this same area you want to determine how much of a shelf is formed by the transverse processes. This area behind the ribs and below the spine is termed the paralumbar fossa. In thin animals the body wall in this area will be sucked in with the short ribs forming an obvious shelf. In fatter animals, the body wall will project out and the short ribs will be hard to identify. Additionally, one should visualize the degree of fatness in the chest and inguinal areas.
Important times to assess body condition score would be during early to mid pregnancy; early to mid lactation and periodically to other animals of the herd to assess energy status.
Body condition scores 2.0 and below or 4.0 and above are considered abnormal and represent extremely thin or fat animals, respectively.
Adapted from Edmonson et al, JDS 1989;72:68 and Russel, A. Body condition scoring sheep, Sheep and Goat Practice 1991.