When we brought the goats home, I assembled the basics needed for goat keeping (see Goat Starter List), including a goat weight tape. The instructions said to measure around the girth to determine goat weight, and then adjust diet as necessary.
This didn’t work in practice at all; weight tapes are for full size goats – not Nigerian Dwarfs. So I don’t know their weight, and even if I did – what good would it do me? Tinker’s heavier, but she’s taller and older too. Turns out, there’s a system used for establishing whether they’re too fat or too thin called “Body Condition Scoring (BCS)”.
For goats, body condition simply refers to the fleshiness of the goat. However, you can’t judge the goat just by looking, you have to physically handle the goat and assess key parts of the body. These key spots are over the ribs, on either side of the spine, and the sternum. Goats are scored on a five point system; and the details on scoring along with representative picures are attached here: Body Condition Scoring
Good body condition enhances reproduction whereas poor body condition may result in failure to breed, fewer multiples, low weaning weights, and general reproductive failure. There are specific BCS targets to aim for during breeding, gestation, and lactation:
Breeding: Does should have a body condition score of 3 to 3.5 at the beginning of the breeding season.
Pregnancy: Pregnant does need to be watched closely to make sure they maintain a score of 3 -4 throughout this period. They should not be allowed to reach a score greater than 4, or they risk toxemia or kidding difficulty.
After Kidding: During lactation, it’s normal for condition scores in does to fall. However, it’s important that they not drop too quickly or below a 2.
So, the good news is, I didn’t really need a weight tape; and the bad news is, the girls are going on a diet. Their winter coats make them look fatter than they really are, still no more grain and treats! Ok, reality check, no more grain and we’ll cut down on the treats.