Holstein Canada

Cattle Assessments

What is being assessed?

The assessor will evaluate a random sample of cattle in the milking herd for:

  • Body condition score
  • Injuries: Hocks, neck and knees
  • Lameness

The assessment is designed to provide producers with a benchmark of how their cattle score to track their own improvement over time, and provide them with an analysis to compare their farms results to their peers. It should highlight what they are doing well and any areas requiring some improvement.


Animals will be assessed on a range from 1 (emaciated) to 5 (fat) using the BCS chart below.

Score “A” Acceptable

Description of BCS 2.25 :
Corrugations on the top of the short ribs extend from the tips of the short ribs to half of the way to the spine.
Score “R” Requires corrective action

Description of BCS 2 :
No fat pad evident on pins Corrugations on the top of the short ribs extend from the tips of the short ribs to three quarters of the way to the spine.


Hock Injury - No Swelling No Swelling
No hair is missing, some hair loss or broken hair.
Hock Injury - Minor Swelling No Swelling or Minor Swelling(<1cm)
Bald area on hock.
Score 0-1
Score "A"
Hock Injury - Medium Swelling Medium Swelling
(1-2.5cm) and/or lesion on bald area.
Hock Injury - Major Swelling Marjor Swelling
(>2.5cm). May have bald area/lesion.
Score 2-3
Score "R"
Requires corrective action
will be assessed similarly to hock injuries, with one notable difference: any swelling of a knee or the neck will receive a score of “R” Requires corrective action.


Lameness will be assessed using one of two methods:
Gait scoring (scores 1-5) or stall lameness scoring. As a general rule, free-stall animals will have their gait scores assessed while they walk; scores 1 and 2 are categorized as “A” acceptable, 3 is marked monitor, and 4 and 5 indicate “R” requires corrective action.

In tie-stalls, the assessor will look for behavioural indicators of lameness. Any animal that presents two or more of the following behaviours will be scored as lame.

TIESTALL Behavioural Indicator
Standing post (voluntary movements)
  • Standing on edge of stall
  • Weight shifting
  • Uneven weight
Cow moved from side to side
  • Uneven movement
Animal Based Measures “A” Acceptable “R” Requires corrective action
Body Condition Score BCS > 2 BCS ≤ 2
Injuries 0 - 1 2 - 3
   Tie-stall < 2 indicators N/A ≥ 2 indicators
   Free-stall 1 - 2 3 4 – 5
Average # of cattle in milking herd Sample size: minimum # of cattle for assessment Approximately every ____ animal
<20 14 All to every 2nd
30 18 2nd
40 21 2nd
50 23 2nd
70 27 3rd
90 29 3rd
100 30 3rd
150 33 5th
250 37 7th
350 38 9th
450 39 12th
550 40 14th
700 40 18th
>1000 5% 20th

DFC has developed the sample size calculator to ensure that results from assessing the sample are representative of the herd and are statistically valid. The sample size calculator is based on a statistically representative sample size calculator, except for herds over 1,000 cows, which need to have more animals assessed. This was done to ensure extra credibility for large herds. Smaller herds have a larger percentage of animals assessed than larger herds, but using a percentage across herds does not provide statistically valid results. The smaller the herd size, the more animals you need to assess to determine the herd’s results. This also mitigates the risk of a few random animals drastically affecting the Cattle Assessment results. For example, if the 5% sample size was applied across herds, a 30-cow herd would only have 2 animals assessed. If one had hock injuries, the herd’s injury rate would be 50%! The larger sample size for smaller herds ensures more accurate results.

Keep in mind that accurately assessing the sample of your herd will require an investment of your time. Time required to assess the sample of your herd will be discussed while scheduling your visit with the assessor.