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Variability among enumerators in assigning body condition scores in meat goats

R. C. Merkel and T. A. Gipson

Journal of Animal Science 89(E-Supplement 2):403. 2011

Body condition score (BCS) is a subjective measure of an animal’s condition. In research settings, teams of three enumerators determine a true BCS, defined as the median score. The variability among team member scores in determining an animal’s true BCS is not well studied. 24 Spanish (28 – 40 wk of age; 26.6 ± 4.43 kg) and 28 predominately Boer (B) blood (24 - 75%B, 4 – 100%B; 33 – 46 wk of age; 33.9 ± 6.99 kg) wethers were allocated to 4 groups having equal breed numbers. Goats were raised on pasture with unlimited access to alfalfa hay with 2 groups consuming either 0.5% or 1.5% BW of a pelleted diet (16% CP, 29% ADF, 60% TDN). BCS (1 = very thin, 5 = obese, 0.25 increments) was taken bi-weekly by the same three enumerators with the median value recorded as the true BCS. A total of 1728 observations (576 per enumerator) were recorded. Data was analyzed using repeated measures. The repeatability score was 0.6 ± 0.05. Median BCS and percent of individual scores at the median, respectively, for the BCS given throughout the trial were 2.0, 0.35; 2.25, 1.56; 2.5, 25.0; 2.75, 43.4; 3.0, 20.0; 3.25, 5.9; and 3.5, 3.8 (?2 = 107.1, P < 0.01). On the same animal at the same time, all enumerators gave the same BCS 37.9 and two of the three enumerators agreed 56.4% of the time. When only two enumerators agreed, enumerators A and B, B and C, and A and C agreed 24.3, 17.7, and 14.4% of the time, respectively. In only 5.7% of animals were all three scores different. All scores were either at the median, 0.25 above, 0.25 below, 0.5 above, or 0.5 below (77.4, 10.8, 11.2, 0.23, and 0.46%, respectively; ?2 = 166.2 P < 0.01 for equal distribution). In no instance did an individual score deviate from the median by 0.75 of a score. Results show close agreement in assigning BCS to growing meat goats with 99.4% of scores given by enumerators either at or within 0.25 of the median score. In 94.3% of animals scored by three enumerators, at least two scores were at the median whereas combinations of two enumerators giving the same score ranged from 52.3 to 62.2%. Data confirms that three enumerators are preferable to two in determining an animal’s true BCS.


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