Body condition scoring: Assessing your flock in advance of breeding

Getting your flock of ewes gathered and assessing their body condition well in advance of breeding should be on the top of the to-do list, as soon as possible. The importance of this task cannot be underestimated and it is done without the need for any equipment – so there are no excuses.

Body condition scoring is a subjective method of assessing the condition of your ewes and goes from a scale of 1-5.

In an ideal world, a ewe in good condition will have a smooth and relatively round spine, with a full muscle on the top of her back.The sides of the ewe should be well-rounded. Moreover, you should only be able to feel the bones when you apply a bit of pressure.

Ideally, you want your ewes to have a body condition score (BCS) of 3.5 at mating; so if you have ewes with a BCS of 2.5 now, it is going to take eight to 10 weeks for them to put on a unit of condition – provided they are fed good-quality grass.

Not forgetting the ram(s), a condition score of 4 should be targeted. The only way to know what ewes are going to need preferential treatment is to go through them one by one, and physically handle them to see what condition they are in.If it’s a case that you have some thin ewes, then they should be given access to the best-quality grass on the farm and, in some cases, they may even need to be fed concentrates – if they are well behind target.

Furthermore, if not done already, along with bringing your ewes into the yard to assess their condition, it is also a good time to identify any ewes that may be too far gone or have been earmarked ‘not fit to breed’ and need to be culled.If it is a case where some ewes are too far gone and it will take too long to get them in good condition, then the best thing to do is cut your losses and cull straight away.