Body condition, Teat and Udder Scoring

Body condition, udder and teat scoring has been a topic of conversation as of late due to B+LNZ Genetic running a series of workshops around the country.  For those who couldn’t attend or those who did but still have questions here is what you need to know on the topic.

The goal is to develop three EBVs for body condition, udder and teat scores as these traits are of economic importance. An initial data set is required for genetic parameters and the EBVs to be developed.


Body Condition Score (BCS)

What is a Body Condition score?

Body condition scoring in an important productive measure of the energy reserves of an animal, in the form of fat and muscle.


Why develop a body condition score trait?

Currently, farmers can only use RIB and P8 Fat Depth EBVs as indictor of a cattle beast’s ability to maintain condition. However, results from B+ LNZ Beef Progeny Test show that these EBVs are poor indicators, particularly in young animal.

The genetic correlation between these traits is found to be only 25%, with only 6% of the genetic variation in BCS explained by the ultrasound measurements.

An EBV based on measurement of BCS on cows could provide a much better and more accurate selection tool.

Studies estimate BCS is moderately heritable trait.


How do we record Body Condition Score?

BCS will be a breeder recorded trait using the NZ Beef Cow BCS 1-10 scale.

Body Condition Scoring Booklet

Body Condition Scoring Reference Card

Breeders will be required to provide the following information when submitting BCS:

  • Animal Herdbook number
  • BCS (half scores will be accepted)
  • Date of observation.

BCS must be recorded at the same time as Mature Cow Weight (within 2 weeks of 200-day weight of calves)

If you wish to submit more than one BCS per cow, per year, the recommended times include prior to calving and prior to mating. Please note it is recommended a cow liveweight be collected at the same time.

It is recommended scoring start when an animal is two-years of age.


Can my historic body condition data be utilised?

Breeders with historic BCS data can submit this for use. If the data has been collected using a different BCS scale this is not an issue, just let the PBB registry team know what scale was used and they can convert it.

Cow condition score previously submitted into BREEDPLAN will be exported into the dataset. If you haven’t already, please let the registry team know you have been recording this trait.

Key points:

  • BCS is a great management tool. For example, the ideal BCS at mating is 7.
  • Although BCS can be taken in the paddock or as a cow passes through a gateway, the best way to get an accurate score, especially when you are learning, is to put your hands on the animal. Different animals lay condition in different areas and bone can be misleading.
  • The scoring approach should be kept consistent. If possible, the scoring should be done by the same person.
  • BCS shouldn’t take long to do per cow. All you need to do is look or run your hands over the 6 designated areas scoring each in your head and then average it out to get the cows BCS.
  • Most cows will sit between a BCS of 4.5-8.5. It is rare to have cows under or over this range.
  • Research shows that the variation in score per animal, per year is approximately 2 scores.
  • BCS is not affected by gut fill, age of foetus or frame size.


Teat and Udder Trait

What is a Teat and Udder score?

The two individual scores are a subjective assessment of teat size (length and circumference) and udder suspension.

Why develop a teat and udder score trait?

Teat and udder quality are two of the most important functional traits. Teat and udder soundness are a concern for several reasons.

  • Labour associated with extra costs and reduced convenience.
  • Longevity, which may be reduced because of injury or mastitis.
  • Calf performance, affected by a reduction in milk flow, or lower colostrum intake by newborn calves having difficulty nursing due to oversized teats.
  • Teat and udder characteristics appear to be heritable. This means that there is variation in the udder quality of daughters from different sire groups. Thus, change can be made through selection.

Teat and udder scores were indicated as a trait of interest to New Zealand farmers and breeders in B+LNZ trait prioritisation survey work. There are genetic evaluations for teat and udder scores in some North American breeds, but they are not currently available in New Zealand and little data has been collected.

How do we record Teat and Udder Score?

Teat and Udder scores will be a breeder recorded trait. The scoring system that has been selected is the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) 1-9 system.

Teat and Udder Score Guidelines

An animal should be ideally scored at or within 24 hours of calving.

The two scores submitted must be based on the weakest quarter for both teat size and udder suspension.

Breeders will be required to provide the following information when submitting Teat and Udder Score:

  • Animal Herdbook number
  • One teat score and one udder score per cow
  • Date of observation.


How do we submit our data?

Input your data into the excel spreadsheet below and email it through to the PBB registry team via

click here to download spreadsheet