Sheep Management

fact sheet no. 14
Condition Scoring of Ewes

Condition scoring the ewe flock can be a useful management tool. A producer can classify ewes into groups according to fullness of muscling and amount of fat cover. While it is subjective, it is accurate enough to indicate the nutritional status of individual ewes as well as an entire flock
Knowing condition scores, flockowners can make adjustments in the feeding program to save money or prevent problems attributable to ewe condition. There is an optimum condition (score) for each ewe in the flock for each stage of the production cycle. Use Table 1 to compare each ewe's and the flock's condition against a standard and as a guide for feeding ewes in optimum or poor condition.
Ewes can be scored several times during the year. Perhaps the most important time is five to six weeks prior to lambing.
Scoring is done by using the hand to feel for the fullness of muscling and fat cover over and around the vertebrae in the loin region. The loin vertebrae have, in addition to the central spinal column, a vertical portion of bone called the spinous process (figure 1), and a short horizontal bone called the transverse process extending outward (figure 2). These bones can be easily felt through the wool and skin on thin ewes, but not at all on fat ewes.
A uniform condition scoring system has not been adopted in the U.S. sheep industry. The system described in this fact sheet has been used by some and appears to be workable. It can be modified to include half scores when scorers are unsure of a whole number score.

Table 1. Feeding by Condition Score of a 150-Lb. Ewe.
							Adjustment for Thin
				Daily Ration		Ewes with a Score of 1
Period		Desired Score 	(air dry, lb.)		to Low 2

Maintenance 2 3.2 good hay, Add 0.3 lb. hay, 0.3 lb. equiv.. pasture grain, better pasture Breeding 3 3.0 good hay, Add 0.3 lb. hay, 0.6 lb. equiv. pasture+ grain, better pasture 0.5 grain Early gestation 2+ 3.5 good hay, Add 0.3 lb. hay, 0.3 lb. equiv. pasture grain, good pasture Late gestation 3 4.5 good hay, Add 1.0-1.5 lb. grain 0.5-1.0 lb. grain Lambing 3+ 4.0 good hay, Add 1.0-1.5 lb. grain 1.0-1.5 lb. grain Weaning 2 5.0 excellent hay, Add 1.0-1.5 lb. grain 1.0-2.0 lb. grain
Adjust feed for "fat" (score 4) and "obese"(score 5) ewes only during early gestation by reducing intake to 75-80% of normal. 10-15% weight loss can be tolerated. For a 150-lb. ewe to move up on condition score, she will need to gain 5 to 10 pounds.

The five condition scores (figure 3) are:
Condition Score 1: Very thin Spinous process very prominent and sharp; transverse process also easily felt and sharp; fingers can be pushed easily under ends; loin muscle shallow, concave; no fat over muscle, under skin.
Condition Score 2: Thin Spinous process prominent but less sharp; transverse process smoother on ends; fingers can be pushed with little pressure under ends; loin muscle more depth and fullness; no discernible fat covering.
Condition Score 3: Average Spinous process easily felt with finger pressure but smooth not sharp; transverse process smooth and fat covered; firm pressure needed to push fingers under edge; loin muscle full with cover of .15-.20 inches of fat.
Condition Score 4: Fat Spinous process can be felt with considerable finger pressure; transverse process cannot be felt, ends covered with fat; loin muscle full with cover of .25-.35 inches fat.
Condition Score 5: Very fat Spinous process cannot be felt; back broad with hollow; transverse process cannot be felt; loin very wide and thick over loin edge; evidence of fat around dock extending forward on rump. Fat covering over .4 inch over loin muscle, 1.0 inch or more over rib.

Scoring illustrations above from "Body Condition Scoring of Sheep" by Dr. Terry Boundy in The Progressive Sheep Breeder, pp. 22-24. Spring 1982 Shoreham Vermont

File: Animal Science--Sheep

Prepared by Dan Morrical,, extension sheep specialist, and Gene Hettel,, communications specialist, agriculture.

and justice for all The Iowa Cooperative Extension Service's programs and policies are consistent with pertinent federal and state laws and regulations on non-discrimination regarding race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, and handicap.
Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa State University of Science and Technology and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperating. Robert L. Crom,, director, Ames, Iowa. Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914.

Cooperative Extension Service
E S lowa State University
Ames, Iowa
Pm-989-14 I Revised I February 1986