Body condition scoring mature ewes at key stages in the year, such as weaning and pre-tupping, allows farmers to adjust management and nutrition to maximise productivity and reduce health problems.

The Scottish Government’s Farm Advisory Service has just issued a technical note illustrating how to perform the simple physical examination, which is particularly useful on hill farms, where the technique can lead to a higher lambing and rearing percentage as well as increased milk yields.

The technical note includes diagrams showing how farmers can measure fat and muscle by feeling a sheep’s back.

SAC Consulting's Kirsten Williams, who co-wrote the note, said: “Flocks are often made up of different breeds which have varying frame sizes, fleece covers and genetics, and sheep may have gut fill or a full fleece. It’s therefore very difficult to assess the body reserves of a mature sheep visually.

“Physically handling the sheep at key timings throughout the year allows flock managers to alter management and nutrition depending on the body reserves of the sheep.”