Body condition score can be a useful tool to monitor the health and condition of your deer. Maintaining optimal body condition in bucks can help to support great antler growth, does may be more fertile with increased potential to produce more high-quality milk which can result in healthy, fast-growing fawns.
The Purina Animal Nutrition Body Condition Scoring System allows you to visually score deer based on fat coverage on several key body areas. An ideal Body Condition Score lies between 3 and 4 and can be as high as 4.5 just prior to the rut, especially in bucks.
Scoring should be done on an annual basis. For does, it’s recommended to score mid-to-late summer. If body condition score is poor, this will give time to adjust nutrition to improve body condition scoring prior to breeding season. For bucks, it’s recommended to body condition score in late winter or early spring. If body condition scores are poor, this will give time to make adjustments to nutrition to improve body condition before antler production begins.
Deer is emaciated. The majority of ribs are prominent during summer and visible but less distinct in winter. The spine appears sharp with a steep muscle angle and a prominent sawtooth appearance from the side. Hip bone is clearly visible with sharp edges, surrounded by sunken muscles at the rump. The tail head is devoid of fat and framed by deep sunken depressions on each side, resulting in sharp looking pin bones. The belly is tucked high with hollow flanks and a sharp shelf. The brisket is thin and narrow.
The deer is thin. Many ribs are visible but not prominent during summer. In winter, ribs are slightly prominent. The spine is evident but not sharp, with a somewhat steep muscle angle and mild sawtooth side appearance. Hip bone is clearly seen, with sharp edges and sightly sunken rump muscles. The tail head displays sunken depressions on each side, with sharp pin bones and a small amount of observable fat.
Deer is strong, muscular, and healthy. Ribs should be slightly visible but not sharp during warmer months. Ribs are nicely covered in flesh and not visible in winter. The spine is visible, but not prominent and surrounded by moderately sloping muscles. No “saw toothing” of the spine is visible. Rump clearly visible but not sharp, featuring flat, angular muscles. The tail head reflects slight hollows on either side, rounded pin bones, and a small bit of fat. The belly has a slight depression with a slight shelf and lean appearance with no fat rolls. Slightly rounded brisket.
Deer is healthy, but carrying a few extra pounds, considered normal and healthy prior to rut. Ribs are not visible. The spine is not readily seen, with adjoining muscles rising at a gentle slope. Hips are full with hip bone barely visible. Slight depression can be seen beside tail head. Pin bones appear rounded and smooth. Flank is full with no shelf. Slight fat rolls developing. Brisket appears full and rounded.
Ribs are layered in fat. Spine lies buried in fat, surrounded by rounding muscles with little to no slope. Hip bone is hidden by fat. Rump appears full and overly round. Tail head is covered with rounding at each side, pin bones are buried in fat. Belly is distended, with full flank and no shelf. Fat rolls are clearly evident at the midline and brisket. Does may have reproductive problems.
Monitoring deer utilizing the Purina Animal Nutrition Body Condition Scoring System will help track the health of your animals and allow time to adjust before heading into critical periods of nutritional stress. An ideal body condition score can lead to healthier animals with more production potential that can lead to a healthier bottom line.
Larry Varner – Wildlife Management Consultant for Purina