Live cattle assessment

Page last updated: Monday, 13 May 2024 - 3:48pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Cattle producers regularly make visual assessments of their cattle. Frame, structure, muscularity, fatness and condition score can all be assessed by visual appraisal. Some traits cannot be assessed visually (for example fertility or marbling). To evaluate the genetic merit of an animal, estimated breeding values (EBVs) can be used.

Practical uses of live cattle assessment

Live cattle assessment is used in many aspects of cattle production including:

  • selecting breeding stock
  • assessing if animals will meet market specifications
  • assessing potential growth or maturity pattern of animals
  • in day to day management to assess nutritional status.

Structural assessment

When purchasing or selecting breeding stock, assessment of structure is important to ensure the animal can carry out its role. Some examples include:

  • Poor structure in the feet and legs of an animal may lead to the animal becoming lame with likely production losses and/or premature culling required.
  • Good pelvic structure on females can help ensure calves are born easily.
  • Good sheath structure, particularly in Bos indicus bulls, can help ensure injuries or infection to the sheath (which may result in infertility or an inability to serve cows) is avoided.

Body condition score

Body condition score is a system which assesses the amount of fat and muscle on an animal to evaluate the animal’s energy store. It is a useful management tool and information gained from condition scoring can be used to make decisions on future feed requirements of cattle. For the breeder herd, meeting condition score targets at key points in the annual production cycle will help ensure optimal production and fertility of the herd.

For further information and demonstration, follow these links on body condition scoring for rangelands and southern cattle.

Frame score

Frame score helps assess the maturity pattern of the animal and when it is going to fatten. This is important in selecting animals to meet market requirements and when selecting breeding stock to suit production systems and environment.

Animals with a larger frame score tend to grow faster but are leaner and lay down fat at heavier weights than animals with smaller frame scores.

Muscle and fat score

Being able to accurately determine fat and muscle scores of cattle is a useful skill for cattle producers.

Cattle markets often describe an ideal fat range for cattle entering that market. Visual assessment of fat score in cattle is a useful tool to help ensure cattle meet the requirements of the market and avoid penalties from being over or under fat.

Animals with higher muscle score can attract a premium price from processors as a higher muscle score generally means a higher yield of saleable meat. Muscle score can be selected for the breeder herd without compromising fertility.

Estimated breeding values and nutrition

Estimated breeding values (EBV’s) can be used in conjunction with visual assessment to help evaluate potential maturity pattern, fat and muscularity of an animal. Nutrition will also have an effect on maturity patterns and whether animals are able to meet their genetic potential for muscularity and growth.

Contact information

Rebecca Butcher
+61 (0)8 9651 0540