Beef Cattle Ultrasound Program

Ultrasound scanning of carcass traits is a useful tool to get a look under the hide without having to slaughter the animal, meaning that carcass data can be collected for bulls and heifers destined for the breeding herd. Ultrasound carcass data allows producers to identify positive and negative outliers to make informed breeding and culling decisions that genetic testing may not identify. Carcass ultrasound scanning is also a great educational tool that can be utilized to educate youth about carcass characteristics and carcass grading with their fair steer projects.

The MSU Extension Beef Team offers beef cattle carcass ultrasound as a fee for service program for Michigan and nearby states. The program, previously administered by MSU Extension educator Kevin Gould is now being run by MSU Extension feedlot systems educator, Jerad Jaborek, Ph.D. 

Jaborek is Ultrasound Guidelines Council (UGC) certified and is currently the only UGC certified field technician in the Upper Great Lakes Region. The MSU Beef Team recently received a grant from the Michigan Alliance of Animal Agriculture to update scanning equipment and now has the newest technology available in the industry with the ExaGo scanning unit. The ExaGo is a smaller, more mobile unit, with increased resolution and more importantly, a greater ability to rank animals for marbling deposition compared with older equipment.

The ultrasound process involves having the technician scan cattle to collect images of REA, BF, RF and IMF. These images are sent to the CUP Lab in Ames, IA for further processing and interpretation before data are forwarded to the appropriate breed association. The producer will receive actual and age adjusted measurements of REA, BF, RF and IMF, and contemporary group ratios. The breed association uses this data within contemporary groups and make adjustments to EPDs in their database for genetic evaluation.

Beef producers who are interested in this ultrasound service must contact a UGC certified field technician and schedule a date to collect ultrasound images. Scans are completed near one year of age on breeding cattle, and the age range varies by breed and by sex. A table with acceptable age ranges is posted on the CUP Lab website. Remember to plan ample time, at least 7 business days, to allow for image processing time and data analysis and return from the breed association. Producers will need to contact their breed association to generate preprinted barn sheets prior to ultrasound scanning. Weaning weight data must also be submitted to the breed association to receive their age and contemporary group adjusted data. Additionally, cattle will need to be weighed at the scanning session (or within 7 days) to compute the results. Facilities must accommodate electrical supply of 110 volts to operate ultrasound scanning equipment and preferably a squeeze chute located out of direct sunlight and rain or snow. Cattle will have their hair clipped to one half of an inch or less in the ultrasound scanning area to facilitate consistency and better skin contact for greater image quality. Having cattle dry and free from mud or dirt also helps improve image quality and image capture rate.

MSU Extension Beef Ultrasound Scanning and Processing Fees

Number of Animals

Scan & Processing Charge Per Animal*









* Plus $30.00 set-up fee per ultrasound scanning session and round-trip travel, which is charged at MSU’s reimbursement rate ($0.655/mile as of 1/31/23).

Ultrasound scanning has been utilized in the beef cattle industry for carcass evaluation since the early 1990s. Collection of ultrasound scan images from seedstock bulls and heifers allows carcass data to be interpreted and entered into the National Cattle Evaluations (NCE) to create expected progeny differences (EPD). Estimated traits include ribeye area (REA), backfat (BF), rump fat (RF) and intramuscular fat (IMF). The REA, BF and RF measurements are used to estimate beef retail yield, while IMF is used to predict degree of marbling, the primary factor in USDA Quality Grade determination. Increased accuracy and genetic prediction of these breeding value estimates allow for informed breeding decisions. In addition to improving genetic prediction, ultrasound scanning is also being used in MSU beef feedlot research projects, and for beef youth and producer education regarding beef carcass characteristics and grading.

Producers interested in carcass ultrasound scanning should contact Jerad Jaborek, MSU Extension feedlot educator at 715-451-2035 or For all other beef related inquiries, check out the Michigan State University Extension Beef Team website.

For more information, download:

Beef Cattle Ultrasound Program brochure