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Comparison of a classical with a highly formularized body condition scoring system for dairy cattle

Isense, A.; Leiber, F.; Bieber, A.; Spengler, A.; Ivemeyer, S.; Maurer, V. and Klocke, Peter (2014) Comparison of a classical with a highly formularized body condition scoring system for dairy cattle. Animal, 8 (12), pp. 1971-1977.

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Document available online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25076185


Body condition scoring is a common tool to assess the subcutaneous fat reserves of dairy cows. Because of its subjectivity, which causes limits in repeatability, it is often discussed controversially. Aim of the current study was to evaluate the impact of considering the cows overall appearance on the scoring process and on the validity of the results. Therefore, two different methods to reveal body condition scores (BCS), ‘independent BCS’ (iBCS) and ‘dependent BCS’ (dBCS), were used to assess 1111 Swiss Brown Cattle. The iBCS and the dBCS systems were both working with the same flowchart with a decision tree structure for visual and palpatory assessment using a scale from 2 to 5 with increment units of 0.25. The iBCS was created strictly complying with the defined frames of the decision tree structure. The system was chosen due to its formularized approach to reduce the influence of subjective impressions. By contrast, the dBCS system, which was in line with common practice, had a more open approach, where – besides the decision tree – the overall impression of the cow’s physical appearance was taken into account for generating the final score. Ultrasound measurement of the back fat thickness (BFT) was applied as a validation method. The dBCS turned out to be the better predictor of BFT, explaining 67.3% of the variance. The iBCS was only able to explain 47.3% of the BFT variance.
Within the whole data set, only 31.3% of the animals received identical dBCS and iBCS. The pin bone region caused the most deviations between dBCS and iBCS, but also assessing the pelvis line, the hook bones and the ligaments led to divergences in around 20% of the scored animals. The study showed that during the assessment of body condition a strict adherence to a decision tree is a possible source of inexact classifications. Some body regions, especially the pin bones, proved to be particularly challenging for scoring due to difficulties in assessing them. All the more, the inclusion of the overall appearance of the cow into the assessment process counteracted these errors and led to a fair predictability of BFT with the flowchart-based BCS. This might be particularly important, if different cattle types and breeds are assessed.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:body condition score, back fat thickness, observer, dairy cow, holistic assessment, LowInputBreeds
Agrovoc keywords:
dairy cattle
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Production systems > Dairy cattle
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Animal > Animal breeding
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Animal > Animal welfare & housing
European Union > LowInputBreeds > SP 1: Dairy and meat cattle
Horizon Europe or H2020 Grant Agreement Number:222632
DOI:doi: 10.1017/S1751731114001888
Related Links:http://www.lowinputbreeds.org
Deposited By: Leiber, Dr. Florian
ID Code:26745
Deposited On:06 Aug 2014 13:18
Last Modified:28 Jul 2021 14:08
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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