Economics dictate that cows stay in moderate body condition. For years publications have described how to use a nine-point scoring system to identify and target management to the needs of specific groups of cows. Often, however, descriptions for assigning body-condition scores (BCS) are vague, relying on the "feel" of cover fat.

KC Olson, beef nutrition specialist for University of Missouri Extension, provides these tips to increase consistency of assigning body-condition scores. Dr. Olson suggests producers should focus on specific landmarks on the animal, including the brisket, ribs, back, pins and hooks.

BCS 1: Emancipated near death. "You will only see a live cow in this condition for a few minutes because she is probably on her last breath," says Dr. Olsen

BCS 2: The cow's brisket is quite a bit lower than her belly; the hooks and pins stick out-even from a great distance

BCS 3: Cows in this condition are sleeker than BCS 2, but the cow still has no fat cover; the belly and brisket even up.

BCS 4: Cows in this condition have rounder rump and sleeker cover. The hooks are prominent but the pins have disappeared under a layer of fat cover.

BCS 5: Cows in this condition are optimum. There's fat cover on ribs and shoulders. You should notice a high tail head and spine, but no visual hooks and pins.

BCS 6: Cows have no tail head, ideal cover, a belly and brisket that are even, and no visible hooks and pins.

BCS 7: Cows in this condition maintain a barrel belly and their tail-head is lower than the back line. Often maneuverability is not good, and the belly hangs lower than the brisket.

BCS 8: Such cows are fat, thick, barrel bellied and have strained movement.

BCS 9: Extreme fat cover and poor mobility.