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Ultrasound scanning enables breeders to assess carcase traits in live animals by measuring the depth of muscle and fat cover across the loin.  Some of the most valuable cuts on a beef carcase are located at the loin, therefore genetic selection for meat yield in this area should be prioritised by both producers and procurers of breeding stock.

Two images of a beef animal measured at the last rib (left) and the third lumbar vertebra (right).

Two images of a beef animal measured at the last rib (left) and the third lumbar vertebra (right).

The information produced by ultrasound scanning is analysed to produce Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) which highlight animals with superior genetic merit for a range of traits including Muscle Depth. These EBVs provide information of more value that the raw measurements themselves, as the effect of non-genetic factors (age at scanning and herd nutrition) is removed. Whereas ultrasound scanning allows the genetic potential for eye muscle depth to be maximised, levels of fatness should be optimised to ensure cattle have the right amount of finish, at the right weight, when slaughtered.

Scanning machine
The use of ultrasound scanning technologies will assist with the selection of breeding stock, be it males or females. Additionally, when breeding animals are sold, animals with superior genetic merit for carcase traits can be identified. Breeders should bear in mind that accuracy values and genetic progress within their herds will be greatly enhanced through the availability of these measurements.

It is relatively easy to use the ultrasound scanning service, but to get the best results the following points should be considered

  • If possible, all animals (excluding those with severe health issues) should be scanned. This increases the size of the contemporary group of animals whose performance is being compared, and therefore the accuracy of the analysis.
  • Cattle should be ultrasound scanned between 300 and 500 days of age
  • Cattle need to be restrained in a crush when scanned
  • Scanning should take place undercover and mains power is required.

For more information click on the leaflet below or on Signet’s Guide to Ultrasound Scanning

Scanning leaflet picture toned down