Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Last Saturday was a little bit of a unique one, we had two men from Kazakstan come to our place for an ultrasound demonstration! It was pretty exciting to have them over and to hear their language, it was my first time and it's very neat. They came over to Canada to learn about ultrasounding and how to do it because they want to introduce ultrasound for carcass traits, mainly marbling into their herd! I will do my best to explain the ultrasounding process in this blog post! 

We have been ultrasounding for carcass traits in our herd for about the last ten years, every year we have an ultrasound technician come out to our place and ultrasound all our yearling heifers and bulls, about two hundred and twenty head making for quite a long day!

The ultrasound measures and estimate of marbling, rib-eye area, back fat and rump fat at three locations on the animal, as shown in the diagram:

  1. Is where the percent of intramuscular fat is measured and is used mainly to measure the marbling in an animal. Marbling is the little specks of fat that is found in a steak and is what adds flavor to the meat. Marbling is also the measurement that will vary the most in an animal, marbling is what they will lose first if their living conditions deteriorate or they get sick.
  2. Is rib-eye area and back fat. Rib-eye is an estimate of the amount of muscle and lean product in the animal. Back fat is an estimate of the external fat on the animal.
  3. Is the rump measurement and is an additional measurement of the external fat on the animal.
Carcass traits measured through ultrasound are highly heritable and will be transferred to the offspring. Over the years we have found that the animals with extremely big rib-eye areas tend to be larger and suitable for terminal sire use, whereas the animals with extreme marbling tend to be a bit on the shallow side and maybe a little bit harder doing. For this reason we look for a balance in our carcass EPDs. It is also seen that if an animal has a huge rib-eye area their marbling usually is not good and vice versa which is another good reason to aim for balanced carcass traits with no major extremes.

Ultrasounding is a very useful technique that is becoming more popular, more buyers are starting to look at carcass traits when they purchase animals. It is also getting to be known around the world as is proof by the Kazakhstanians coming to learn about ultrasound, I know they did and I hope you did too! If you have any questions or comments about it please don't hesitate to ask.
Rump Picture

Rib-Eye Picture



The Cattleman October 2010

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