The Use Of Body Condition Scoring In Broodmare Management

The Use Of Body Condition Scoring In Broodmare Management 5 September, 2011
– Dr Rensia Möller

The Use Of Body Condition Scoring In Broodmare Management

It is generally considered that the mare’s energy status is the major nutritional factor that influences her reproductive efficiency. Body condition scoring is a visual and hands-on method of estimating the amount of body fat your mare has, therefore it is a useful tool in establishing an individual’s energy status.


The mare stores fat in 3 main areas: the neck, the back/ribs and the pelvis. The body condition scoring system evaluates these 3 areas for fat cover and awards each area a mark of 0 to 5. The table below will help you to decide what mark you should give to each area. All the marks should then be added together and divided by 3 to give an average body condition score.


Pregnancy rates have been shown to be better in mares entering the breeding season with a good body condition score (3-3.5). Mares with poor body condition score (<3) at mating have been shown to suffer from delayed conception, reduced pregnancy rates and increased embryonic loss. Similarly, mares with high body condition scores (>3.5) have been reported to have reduced conception rates (figure 1). To maximise reproductive efficiency the mare should be placed on a rising plane of nutrition three weeks prior to covering and should have a body condition score of 3-3.5 at conception. This body condition score should then be maintained throughout pregnancy.

Unfortunately, all too often mares are allowed to have a body condition score of >3.5 prior to and after covering. This not only reduces conception rates but may also have adverse effects on the developing placenta and hence foetus. If during early pregnancy the mare has a condition score of >3.5, and does not have a foal at foot, her calorie (energy) intake should be restricted to facilitate weight loss. However their vitamin and mineral intake must be maintained by feeding a high specification vitamin and mineral pellet such as Epol All Phase balancer pellets. Studies have indicated that loosing excessive weight during this time will not detrimentally affect the foal. Furthermore, this will enable the mare to receive a rising plane of nutrition in the last trimester to support foetal growth and development.

If by the third trimester of pregnancy the mare’s body condition score is still greater than 3.5 the idea of weight loss must be abandoned. She must receive an increasing plane of nutrition but will need to be monitored carefully during parturition as the risk of foaling difficulties will be increased. Similarly, during lactation weight loss should not be encouraged, particularly if the mare is to be covered again. If energy is severely restricted at this stage it may increase the risk of detrimental fatty liver conditions. Furthermore, an increasing plane of nutrition is vital to maximise successful re-conception, hence calorie restriction is inadvisable. On the other hand a condition score of greater than 3.5 will negatively affect the mare’s chances of re-conceiving post foaling and greater veterinary and management skill will be required to ensure successful reproduction.

In conclusion, the first and second trimesters of pregnancy are the critical times for weight loss in over weight mares; you should aim to have your mare at a body condition score of 3-3.5 prior to and during pregnancy and lactation. Weight loss should not be encouraged in mares with body condition scores greater than 3.5 during the last trimester of pregnancy or during lactation.

Article Brought to you by:

Dr Rensia Möller
Equine Veterinarian and International Nutritionist

Dr Rensia Möller obtained her Agricultural Science before graduating cum laude for her BScAgric Honours in Equine Nutrition and Genetics. She obtained her Masters in Equine Exercise Physiology and Equine Nutrition at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Faculty before completing her Veterinary Science degree at Onderstepoort cum laude.

She opened an equine veterinary and nutrition practice in 2002, as well as developing her own equine nutritional supplement brand in South Africa. She was appointed manager of Zabeel Feedmill in Dubai in 2006 where she custom designed professional performance equine feeds for various internationally acclaimed trainers including Mike de Kock, competing for the Dubai World Cup, with numerous race winners and success stories on these feeds. She also exclusively developed formulas for the world renowned Godolphin and Darley equine racing and breeding houses.

She is currently on board the dynamic Epol team, doing part-time consultancies for Epol clients, and passionately formulating and upgrading their range e.g. the newly launched long awaited mueslis and the international add-on of the Mike de Kock racing range. She is also available for private client consultancies.

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