Sonograming cows

first_imgSound waves do the trick”As the sound waves reflect back, a cross-sectional image iscreated (and) displayed on a computer monitor,” Pringle said.”Ribeye area and back fat are measured between the animal’s 12thand 13th ribs,” he said. “These traits, along with rump fat, arehighly related to the retail product yield.”As the fat measurements increase, they have a negative effect onthe yield of beef cuts. An increase in the ribeye area, though,creates a positive effect, he said.By enabling farmers to predict meat quality, ultrasound ishelping them select their best breeding stock.Before ultrasound, cattlemen evaluated a sire’s carcass merit bystudying the carcass quality of the animal’s offspring.”This process was slow, labor-intensive and expensive,” Pringlesaid. “The average time taken to prove a sire producedhigh-quality carcasses was five to eight years and cost producers$5,000 to $10,000. Now that can be done at a year of age.” By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaUltrasound isn’t limited to helping parents decide whether to buypink or blue baby clothes. Now it’s helping cattlemen providebetter steaks. It’s giving them a virtual look at beef cuts longbefore their animals head for the stockyard.”The success of beef producers depends on their ability toprovide high-quality, consistent end products to consumers,” saidDean Pringle, a University of Georgia animal scientist who worksclosely with the state’s cattle producers. Newest tool availableMany management practices help farmers improve beef quality. Butultrasound is one of their most effective technologies. It’s beenaround since the 1950s, Pringle said, but only in the past fiveto 10 years has the beef cattle industry fully embraced it.”Real-time ultrasound can be used to measure various carcasstraits in live animals,” he said. “You can measure an animal’sintramuscular fat percentage in the ribeye and, from that,predict its marbling score and (U.S. Department of Agriculture)quality grade. Intramuscular fat in the rump is also beingresearched at UGA to possibly improve this prediction.”Ultrasound can give farmers estimates of the ribeye area, backfat, rump fat and the percentage of intramuscular fat in theribeye. Using its high-frequency sound waves to “see” under theanimal’s hide is harmless to the animal, he said.From a sound-emitting probe placed snugly on the animal’s back,sound waves penetrate its tissues. They then reflect off theboundaries between hide, fat and muscle layers.center_img Culling out the bad producersUltrasound can give farmers enough data on their bulls andheifers to decide rightly when to cull cattle from their herds.”Culling decisions need to be based on a combination ofreproduction, growth and end-product,” he said. “Ultrasoundoffers a means to accurately measure the latter.”Ultrasound carcass traits are considered highly inheritable, hesaid. “So now selection of bulls and replacement heifers can bebased on these traits,” he said, “and producers can bring aboutgenetic change in their calves.”To get accurate measurements, ultrasound images must be taken bya certified technician, Pringle said. They cost $12 to $16 perhead. Those images are sent to a centralized computer lab forinterpretation.Pringle has trained animal ultrasound technicians as part of hisfaculty responsibilities in the UGA College of Agricultural andEnvironmental Sciences. In September, the UGA animal and dairyscience department will host the national beef cattle ultrasoundcertification program in Athens, Ga.”If you aren’t going to use a certified technician, it’s a mootpoint,” Pringle said. “And if purebred producers aren’t usingultrasound, I suggest they start. If not, they’ll be behind thecurve.”last_img read more