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The merit of condition score and fat score as alternatives to liveweight for managing the nutrition of ewes
- van Burgel, A. J., Oldham, C. M., Behrendt, R., Curnow, M., Gordon, D. J., Thompson, A. N.
- Animal production science 2011 v.51 no.9 pp. 834-841
- Merino, body weight, business enterprises, ewes, eyes, flocks, genotype, meat carcasses, monitoring, nutrition, profitability, scanners, slaughterhouses, ultrasonics
- The liveweight profile of Merino ewes is related to the production and profitability of the sheep enterprise, but few producers measure liveweight to manage the nutrition of Merino ewes. In this paper we examine the relationship between changes in liveweight and condition score using data from the Lifetimewool project and compare condition score and fat score as alternative monitoring tools. Analyses of liveweight and condition score data from 15 flocks of Merino ewes representing a range of different genotypes and environments showed that the relationship between change in liveweight and condition score was on average 9.2 kg per unit change in condition score or 0.19 times the standard reference weight of the flock. In two experiments experienced operators were used to estimate the condition score and fat score in over 200 ewes and accredited ultrasound scanners measured the eye muscle and fat depth at the C site in the same ewes. All assessments were repeated several times in random order. Within 24 h of the assessments the sheep were slaughtered at local abattoirs where the tissue depth at the GR site was measured on the hot carcasses. Both condition score and fat score were highly repeatable though subject to operator bias. They were related to each other and to the objective measures of fat and eye muscle depth at the C site. However, 95% of sheep below condition score 2.5 had a tissue depth (muscle and fat) at the GR site ≤3 mm, by definition equal to fat score 1. As the condition score of ewes on commercial properties often fluctuates between scores 2 and 3, and small changes in condition score within this range can have large effects on welfare and profit, we conclude that condition score is the most appropriate alternative to liveweight for managing the nutritional profile of ewes.