Goat Reproduction Nutrition Impacts Reproduction

Goat Nutrition

The Role of Body Condition Scores on Reproduction

Body condition score, or BCS, refers to the amount of fat covering the body. BCS is also a good indicator of the nutritional status and the general health of the animal. External fat can be measured by palpating the spine, ribs and hip bone area. Meat goats are then assigned a numeric value between 1 (thin) and 9(obese) to determine fat density over the animal. Note, there are two different scales that can be used to evaluate BCS in meat goats. Some individuals may prefer to use the numeric scale 1 (thin) to 5 (obese) which can also be used to evaluate the BCS of dairy goats (refer to Table 1 to see the relationship between the two scales), but for this article we will use the scale 1 to 9.

Table 1. Body Condition Scoring Systems
BCS 1-5 BCS 1-9 Fat Covering
1 1 Thin
1.5 2  
2.0 3  
2.5 4 Moderately Fleshed
3.0 5  
3.5 6  
4.0 7 Obese
4.5 8  
5.0 9  

Scoring or assigning the animal a numeric value is based on feeling the level of muscling and fat deposition over and around the vertebrae in the loin region. In addition to the central spinal column, loin vertebrae have a vertical bone protrusion (spinous process) and a short horizontal protrusion on each side (transverse process). Both of these protrusions can be felt and are used to assess an individual body condition score.

The body condition scores for breeding does should be between 5 or 6 for meat goats and 3 to 3.5 in dairy goats. Does with BCS below 4 or 3 that are dairy goats may require several weeks of intensive management to get them back into the proper condition. Females that are in good condition should have good milk production, good colostrum quality and high pregnancy and twining rates. Animals that are bred in poor condition may have increased incidents of morbidity, the kids may be born weak and unthrifty, the does may abort their fetuses, the doe may have low milk production or the doe may produce kids with low birth rates. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that animals are in optimum condition prior to starting the breeding season.

The effects of BCS on performance of late pregnant does, are shown in Table 2 and should be taken under consideration when planning the breeding program for animals.

Table 2. Effect of Condition Scores on Late Pregnancy Does and Subsequent Performances

Thin (BCS= 1-3) Kidding Does

  • Low Milk Production
  • Poor Colostrum Quality
  • Small, thin, weak kids
  • High mortality rates
  • Slow growth rates of nursing kids
  • Small weaning weight of kids and litter
  • High frequency of single births and single weaned kids
  • Long rebreeding intervals
  • Difficult kidding

Moderate (BCS=4-6) Kidding Does/ Moderate

  • Good milk production
  • Good quality colostrum
  • Heavy to average weight kids
  • Good growth rates and weaning weights of kids/litter.
  • High twinning rates
  • Quick rebreeding intervals

Fat (BCS = 7-9) Kidding Does

  • High milk production
  • Good quality colostrum
  • Heavy birth weight
  • Low morbidity and mortality rates
  • Excellent multiple birth (twins or triplets)
  • Quick rebreeding interval
  • Increase dystocia, or difficult births
  • Increase metabolic disorders, such as pregnancy toxemia and milk fever

Adapted from R.C. Noble- Tuskegee University (2004)

For more information on body condition scoring, please visit the link Goat Body Condition Score.

Keywords: Body condition score, meat goats, obese, thin

Reference: McKenzie-Jakes, A. 2008. Reproductive Management of Small Ruminants Module 13 In: Master Goat Producers Manual, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL.