Ultrasound scanning measures important beef cattle carcass traits

Beef cattle ultrasound EPDs are equivalent to carcass EPDs and may someday completely replace carcass EPDs.

Research has indicated that breeders can scan yearling bulls and heifers for carcass traits and have this information included for National Cattle Evaluation ultrasound Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs). Ultrasound EPDs are equivalent to carcass EPDs and may someday completely replace carcass EPDs. Certified ultrasound technicians collect the images and send them to a centralize lab where the images are interpreted. Michigan is fortunate to have a certified technician to scan cattle on a timely and cost effective basis.

Producer requirements

  • Producers must obtain an ultrasound “barn sheet” from their breed association for animals to be scanned before the scan date
  • 110V power is needed to operate scanning equipment
  • Cattle need to be restrained in an effective handling facility
  • Cattle need to be weighed at scanning time or within 7 days of the scanning date

What the cattle breeder receives

  • After scanning and interpretation, the measurements are forwarded to the appropriate breed association for processing. Ultrasound record processing follows the same format used for weight traits within performance programs. Breeders receive the ultrasound measurements (adjustments and contemporary group ratios) as a part of the program.
  • Ultrasound measures are adjusted to 365 days for yearling bulls. The current age end point adjustments for developing heifers is 390 days of age (approx. 13 months). The end-point adjustments for feedlot steers and heifers is 420 days of age.
  • Ultrasound measures on each animal include:
    • Rump fat thickness
    • 12-13th rib fat thickness
    • Ribeye area
    • Percentage intramuscular fat (marbling)

Ultrasound information outlining beef industry trends and scanning value for individual herd is available at the CUP Lab website. For additional cattle management resources, visit the Michigan State University Extension Beef Team website and select “MSU Programs” and “Ultrasound Scanning” or contact Kevin Gould, Michigan State University Extension Educator at gouldk@msu.edu (616) 527-5357.

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