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Sow Body Condition Scoring Guidelines

Sow body condition scoring is more important than ever as producers move toward putting sows in groups as part of a move toward more pen gestation systems. In order to effectively assign subjective (visual) body condition scores, sows should be analyzed and scored early in gestation. It is critical to understand the points of evaluation on the animal and to be able to distinguish between fat and muscle. Begin by locating the ribs, the backbone and the hips.

An inexpensive, low-labor means of estimating sow weight was developed by Kansas State University using a cloth tape measure (see photo and caption).

Ultrasound equipment should be used to obtain backfat estimates at the sow’s last rib. See photo and caption explaining procedures for obtaining backfat measurements.

The rear view pictures show a high view and a low view of a sow as her body condition score (BCS) progressed from BCS 1 to BCS 5. Sows can be in any of these conditions in any parity and stage of production. A body condition score of “3” is considered “ideal.”

These photos present a visual reference to help train your eyes to see visual differences in sow condition. Captions between photos provide descriptions, explanations and backfat estimate ranges for each body condition score. These backfat estimates were obtained by A-mode ultrasound; “real-time” values may be slightly higher for fat sows. The backfat recommendations for each BCS classification can differ slightly, depending on the genetic lines. The weight and backfat estimates, combined, are used to estimate daily feeding requirements. Be sure to consult your genetic supplier for specific weight, backfat and nutritional recommendations.

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