Body Condition Scoring
Written by Administrator-GL   
Friday, 20 June 2008
Body Condition Scoring System
Maxine Kinne
Illustrations by Sunny Larsen


This body condition scoring was developed for the National Pygmy Goat Association in 1995 to address the unfortunate consequences of obesity and its relationship to dystocia. The Board of Directors immediately approved it for inclusion in the Judges Training Manual. To my knowledge, it has not been included, and judges are not trained to use it.

Illustrations show loin structure, the regions of the back between the ribs and hips. Descriptions are what you feel on the loin with firm fingertip pressure. Also discussed are in bones, or tuber ischii, part of the pelvis and located at either side of the vulva in does and the same location in bucks. Other versions of condition scoring describe fat padding on chest floor and how it correlates with features included in this system. Each of the five categories has a descriptive title and a score number. Padding over the ribs is never used to accurately judge body condition.


Parts of the Loin

Spinous processes are the bones felt on top of the back. Vertebral processes are the long bones horizontal to the spine. The vertebral angle is the triangle between the top of the spinous process, the edge of the vertebral process and the skin. The muscle inside this angle is the longissimus, or eye muscle, a roast or part of a T-bone steak.



1   POOR



No muscle on edges of transverse process, bones very sharp, thin skin
Vertebral angle has little muscle and is very concave
Spinous processes very prominent with no muscle in between
Sharp outline visible; no muscle between skin and bones
Very sharp, no padding

Features    Skeleton has little or no muscle. Hollows in the flanks below the loin are very concave.
Causes       Poor diet, disease, parasitism, lactation, or any combination of these.
Problems   Slow growth rate in kids; stunting in growing animals, conception failure, abortion,
                   weak or dead newborns, metabolic disease during pregnancy, very susceptible to disease.
Solutions    Better nutrition, management and herd health program. Evaluate disease status.

2   THIN




Muscle extends to the edges of transverse process, spacing can be
felt between the vertebral processes, thin skin
Outline slightly contoured; light padding but bones still somewhat
prominent and very easy to feel
Sharp, little padding

Features    Skeleton has some muscle. Hollows in the flanks below the loin are somewhat concave.
Causes      Poor diet, disease, parasitism, lactation or any combination of these.
Problems   Slow growth rate in kids and growing animals, metabolic disease, weak or dead newborns,
                  susceptible to disease.
Solutions   Better nutrition, management and herd health program. Evaluate disease status.

3   GOOD



Muscle and subcutaneous fat covers edges of vertebral process;
individual bones are somewhat distinct
Smooth, without signs of fat; pelvic bones and spine are distinct
Slight pressure needed to feel the pin bones

Features    Muscle over skeleton felt with gentle pressure. Firm pressure is not needed to feel bones.
                   Hollows in the flanks are barely concave or level with the surrounding area of the sides.
Problems   None. Maintain condition at 3 or slightly higher, depending on age and production status.


Scores 1-3 represent muscle growth/expansion
Muscle does not grow after score 3.
Scores 4 and 5 represent fat accumulation

4   FAT



Vertebral processes indistinct and firm pressure needed to feel them
Vertebral angle rounded but not yet bulging over spinous processes
Spinous process spacing difficult to detect; spine felt as a hard line
Heavily padded with fat; bones can only be felt with firm pressure
Heavily padded with fat, and firm pressure needed to feel them

Features    Very firm pressure needed to feel all bony structures.
Causes      Feeding in excess, limited exercise.
Problems   Inhibited locomotion, easily tired, orthopedic abnormalities, dystocia, metabolic disease.
Solutions   Reduce plane of nutrition, provide exercise.




Edge of vertebral processes and spacing between too fat to feel bones
Vertebral angle bulges over the level of the spinous processes
Spine lies in the center of a groove of fat
Buried in fat, bones very indistinct
Buried in fat, hard to locate

Features    Bones covered with a thick layer of fat over the muscle are very hard to feel.
Causes       Feeding in excess, limited exercise.
Problems    Inhibited locomotion, easily tired, orthopedic abnormalities, infertility, dystocia,
                   metabolic disease.
Solutions    Reduce plane of nutrition, provide exercise.

Evaluate Body Condition Score (BCS)

The term body condition refers to the fleshing of an animal. Because the greatest potential for goats is to graze them with beef cattle, we have devised a 1 to 9-point graduated scale, adapted from the beef system used in North Carolina. In that graduated scale, thin is 1 to 3, moderate is 4 to 6 and fat is 7 to 9. In most situations, goats should be in the range of 4 to 7. Scores of 1 to 3 indicate a problem, and scores of 8 to 9 are almost never seen in goats.


BCS 1 Extremely thin. Extremely thin and weak, near death.
BCS 2 Extremely thin. Extremely thin but not weak.
BCS 3 Very thin. All ribs visible. Spinous processes prominent and very sharp. No fat cover felt with some muscle wasting.
BCS 4 Slightly thin. Most ribs visible. Spinous processes sharp. Individual processes can be easily felt. Slight fat cover can be felt over the eye muscle.
BCS 5 Moderate. Spinous processes felt but are smooth. Some fat cover felt over eye muscle.
BCS 6 Good. Smooth look with ribs not very visible. Spinous processes smooth and round. Individual processes very smooth, felt with considerable pressure. Significant fat cover felt over eye muscle.
BCS 7 Fat. Ribs not visible, spinous process felt under firm pressure. Considerable fat felt over eye muscle.
BCS 8 Obese. Animal is very fat with spinous processes difficult to feel. Ribs can not be felt. Animal has blocky obese appearance.


Extremely obese. Similar to an eight but more exaggerated. Animal has deep patchy fat over entire body.


  • To monitor and fine tune nutrition program

  • To "head off" parasite problem

  • Visual evaluation is not adequate, has to touch and feel animal

Areas to be monitored

  • Tail head
  • Ribs
  • Pins
  • Hocks
  • Edge of loin
  • Shoulder
  • Back bone
  • Longissimus dorsi


  • Thin   1 to 3
  • Moderate   4 to 6
  • Fat   7 to 9


  • End of pregnancy   5 to 6
  • Start of breeding season  5 to 6
  • Animals should never have a body condition score of 1 to 3
  • Pregnant does should not have a body condition score of 7 or above toward the end of pregnancy because of the risk of pregnancy toxemia
  • A body condition score of 5 to 6 at kidding should not drop off too quickly
Last Updated ( Saturday, 11 October 2014 )