Structural problems in cattle have a substantial effect on both the reproductive and growth performance of a beef herd. It is widely recognized that structural problems in sires have detrimental effects on conception rates, calving patterns and thus profitability. Similarly, females with inadequate structural characteristics are more prone to weaning lighter calves or conceiving later in the breeding season than their more functional counterparts. These structural problems are filtered through the supply chain resulting in reduced income for the producer, feedlot and thus reducing the overall productivity of the Australian Beef Industry.
The current trend for improving consistency and quality of product has shifted producers' focus towards selecting seedstock on carcass and growth genetic traits (EBVs). Whilst, this selection has been, and will continue to be pivotal in developing the Australian beef industry, we must not forget the fundamentals of livestock breeding.
The Beef Class Structural Assessment System was designed by the MLA, the BIA and several breed societies to address structural problems in the beef industry. Detailed analysis of three thousand animals in genetically linked herds indicated that structural characteristics such as leg and foot structure were moderately to highly heritable. BEEFXCEL now services many seedstock operations in their selection and grading of stock using the Beef Class Structural Assessment System.
Hazeldean Angus is continually expanding their structural assessment program in order to optimise soundness and performance in their stock. The program involves an independent assessor from BEEFXCEL analysing the structural composition of the herd on an individual basis. The program used at Hazeldean Angus comprises of:
- An annual assessment of all sale bulls;
- An annual assessment of all breeding females and donor cows
- All animals deemed inadequate are culled.
The Scoring System
Feet and leg structure
The Beef Class Structural Assessment System (1-9 scoring system for feet and leg structure)
- A score of 5 is ideal;
- A score of 4 or 6 shows slight variation from ideal, but this includes most sound animals.
- An animal scoring 4 or 6 would be acceptable in any breeding program;
- A score of 3 or 7 shows greater variation but would be acceptable in most commercial programs. However, seedstock producers should be vigilant and understand that this score indicates greater variation from ideal;
- A score of 2 or 8 are low scoring animals and should be looked at cautiously and inspected very closely before purchasing;
- A score of 1 or 9 should not be catalogued and are considered immediate culls.
The sheath score is an assessment of the degree of attachment of the penis to the underline of the bull. 5 is best and 1 is worst.