Livestock JudgingStudy Guide
Steps to Judging Market Steers
Steps to Judging Market Steers Judging market steers should always start at the ground and work up and start at the rear and work forward. The animals in the class should be ranked based on the traits of importance they possess, and contestants should always evaluate the most important traits first. Contestants should also eliminate any easy placings in the class, and place the remainder of the class based on the volume of the important traits.
Ranking of Traits for Market Steers Steers today should be extra thick, medium framed, and adequately finished. For market steers, the ranking of traits in the order of their importance is as follows: 1. Degree of muscling 2. Degree of finish (fat cover) 3. Growth capacity 4. Soundness and structural correctness 5. Balance 6. Frame size
Evaluating Degree of Muscling Determining degree of muscling should start with evaluating thickness through the center of the quarter. The second view should be an evaluation of base width. A steer that is heavy muscled will typically have good width between its rear feet when it stands and walks. The final view should be evaluation of muscle expression over the top. Heavy muscled steers will have a butterfly shape down the top.
Evaluating Degree of Muscling Super thick muscleAverage muscleThin muscletThick muscle
Evaluating Degree of Finish Market steers require a certain level of exterior fat to achieve the amount of intramuscular fat, or marbling, necessary to receive a quality grade of Choice. Steers excessive in fat will be discounted for receiving a yield grade of 4 or 5. The most ideal level of exterior fat for a market steer is 0.4-0.6 inches. Areas to consider when evaluating degree of finish include the top line, underline, body depth, brisket, tailhead, udder or cod, shoulder, and over the ribs.
The appearance of a smooth top, the fullness behind the shoulder, and the looseness through the underline reveal that this heifer is over finished. Fat cattle will be uniformly deep from front to back, and full in their brisket and cod. Cattle that are over finished will also have large patches of fat on each side of the tailhead.
Too Much Muscle This steer does not have enough fat to achieve an acceptable quality grade. This steer has prominent indentions behind the shoulders, is very clean over the ribs, is tight through the underline, and free of fat in the brisket, cod, and around the tailhead.
Evaluating Degree of Finish
The full look of the brisket on the top left is near ideal, while the empty brisket on the bottom left reveals a steer that is probably lacking finish.
The degree of fill in the cod for the steer on the bottom right is very good, while the fat around the tailhead of the steer on the right may be too excessive
Evaluating Growth Capacity Because steers are sold by the pound, it is important that they have good width, depth, and length for maximum feeding capacity. Width is determined by evaluating width through the chest, base width at the ground (width between the front and rear feet when the animal stands or walks), and spring of rib. Depth should be uniform from front to back and fit proportionally with length and width. The steer in this picture has good growth capacity. It is wide based, long bodied, uniform in its body depth, and has an open rib shape
Evaluating Soundness and Structural Correctness Because market steers are terminal and will not be retained for a long time within the herd, some would argue that don't need to be sound. However, a lack of soundness will result in limited trips to feed and water and decreased growth. So soundness and structural correctness is important in market steers. Market steers that are sound and structural correct will have flexible, clean, flat joints, long powerful strides, strong pasterns, good set to their hocks and knees, and big feet that sit flatly on the ground. They will also have long, straight top lines and long, level rumps. This picture illustrates an animal that sound and structurally correct. Not the strong pasterns, the good set to the knee and hock, and the big, square feet.
Evaluating Balance Balance is having the correct portions of width, depth, and length. Width depth, and length should be in equal proportions that blend together. This market steer is a good example of an unbalanced steer. It is too heavy fronted and too short and light in its rump. Also, this steer is too shallow in its rear flank and is short bodied.
This picture illustrates a well-balanced market steer. All of the parts (width, depth, and length) fit together nicely.
This steer is well balanced through the front end. It is very clean necked and has a smooth shoulder design. Balance
Evaluating Frame Size
This optimum steer for today's market should be medium framed and finish at about 1,200 pounds. Large framed steers will get too big before they develop the finish that is necessary to receive Choice quality grade. Small framed steers will get too fat before they reach the ideal market weight.
This small framed heifer has matured too quickly, and at only 900 pounds is already over finished.
Steps to Judging Beef Heifers
Steps to Judging Beef Heifers
When judging beef heifers, one should always begin their evaluation at the ground and work up and start at the rear and work forward. The animals in the class should be ranked based on the traits of importance they possess, and contestants should always evaluate the most important traits first. Contestants should also eliminate any easy placings in the class, and place the remainder of the class based on the volume of the important traits
Ranking of Traits for Beef Heifers The ranking of traits in the order of their importance for beef heifer judging is as follows:
1. Soundness and structural correctness - heifers should enter the herd with the ability to walk long distances while grazing and remain in the herd for a long time. 2. Capacity or volume - heifers need good capacity or volume so they can convert forage to meat or milk and have the ability to maintain their body condition in a pasture environment. 3. Style and balance - longevity demands that the parts be put together correctly and that those parts be strong and proportional so that all carry their share of the load. 4. Degree of muscling - muscle (meat) is the end product of beef cattle production, so heifers must have adequate muscling. However, muscle in excess may limit the function and production of the heifer. 5. Femininity - this trait is referred to as the "pretty" trait. Simply put, heifers should like heifers and not like a steer or a bull.
If one were judging bulls rather than heifers, the ranking of these traits and the order of their importance would need to be rearranged. For bulls, the ranking of traits would be: (1) soundness and structural correctness, (2) capacity or volume, (3) degree of muscling, (4) style and balance, and (5) testicular development. Testicles should be large and extended away from the body for maximum fertility. Small or twisted testicles should be significantly discounted.
Evaluating Soundness and Structural Correctness
The feet, legs, and connected structure are the biggest factors physically affecting the heifer's longevity. A proper evaluation of soundness and structural correctness should start at the ground and work up a joint at a time. Feet, pasterns, hocks, knees, hocks, rump, and shoulders should be carefully considered. Feet Pasterns Hocks Rump Shoulder
Feet should be big, even toed, and squarely placed with the animal so they are pointing straightforward. The left picture shows feet that are turned out and not square with the animal's body. This type of defect puts stress on the inside toes and the inside of the knees. The middle picture illustrates feet with poor depth of heel. The hoof-skin junction of this heifer sets too close to the ground. The right picture is an example of an excellent foot. This foot has good size, squareness, depth of heal, and sits flatly on the surface.
Pasterns should be strong and yet flexible, allowing for cushion and give in the foot and ankle. A straight pastern restricts flex while a pastern with to much set puts added pressure on the joints to handle the weight of the heifer. The pastern on the second to the left has too much set, limiting depth of heal and adding pressure to the ankle. The pastern on the left is too straight, lacking flex and cushion. The pictures on the right illustrates a pastern with good flex and strength on the move. The right picture shows the correct set to the front and rear pasterns.
Hocks should be constructed of a clean, flat bone with a slight degree of set allowing for maximum power and mobility. The picture on the middle left shows a heifer whose hock is too straight (post-legged). This lack of set to the hock severely limits flexibility in the hock, and puts a lot of stress on the joint because it does not have an opportunity to give. This continuous stress can often result in the hock swelling and the heifer becoming lame. The left picture is an example of heifer with hocks that have too much set, a defect referred to as being sickle hocked. This hock structure forces the rear feet too far up under the heifer, adding pressure to the hip and rump. The middle right photo shows a heifer with a very round bone design that is turned in at her hocks resulting in her feet being turned out. This cow-hock
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