Live Condition Scoring
Live condition scoring is a technique used as the basis for livestock market reporting. This system has existed in Australia for other livestock species since the late 1970's and is part of the AUS-MEAT language. The following live condition scoring system provides a basis for use with goats. Irrespective of the method of sale of goats, all producers should have the ability to assess just how fat and muscled their goats are.
Live condition Scores
The five live assessment scores for goats vary from 1 (leanest) to 5 (fattest). Scores are based upon the actual fat/tissue thickness at the 'GR' site which is 110 mm from the mid-line over the 12th rib. The 'GR' site is used as an objective reference point because it is relatively easy to measure on the hot carcase, relates well to the yield of saleable meat and is an accurate indication of average fatness and musculature of the carcase and cuts of meat.
Assessing Scores on Live Goats
Live assessment of goats 'over the fence' without handling the animal can be misleading.For successful scoring, have the goats, standing in a relaxed state, preferably in a race, smalt pen or on the liveweight scales. The animal will not be bruised if assessed in the correct manner by careful palpation with the fingertips and thumb. The four best sites to feel when assessing goats are the long ribs (A), the ends of the short ribs (B), the backbone (C) and the eye muscle (D).
A. Long ribs
Feel over the area where the GR measurement would be taken on the carcase (that is, 110 mm from the backline along the second last long rib) for the amount of tissue over the ribs and ease with which individual ribs can be felt. Fingers should be moved through the fibre to get onto the skin. Use tips or balls of fingers.
B. Ends of short loin ribs
A good indication of musculature and fat cover can be obtained by placing the thumb on the top of the backbone and fingers over the ends of the short loin ribs. Move hands back and forth along the spine, feeling the amount of tissue over the backbone and ends of the short ribs. Note also the ease with which individual bones can be felt.
C. Top of the backbone
The area to be felt is the top of the backbone in the long rib and short loin areas. It can be felt with the thumb at the same time as the fingers are feeling the long ribs and ends of the short loin ribs.
D. The eye muscle
The shape of the eye muscle is felt in the short loin area. It can be felt with the thumb or fingers at the same time the ends of the short loin ribs and the top of the backbone are being assessed.
Summary of what to feel for:
Live condition scoring of goats is a "hands on" method which is a valuable tool in estimating carcase musculature and fat. The level of accuracy needs to be regularly monitored by comparing the condition score on the live goat with the actual GR- measurement score on the carcase.
This information can be obtained from all AUS-MEAT accredited abattoirs and by closer liaison with meat buyers and meat processors.
Although demonstrations and the above information can assist, live condition scoring is a personal, practical skill that is best learnt by practice. Producers are encouraged to assess their goats before slaughter and to follow them through the abattoirs and inspect their carcases.
© 2000 B.G.B.A.A.