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Judging Beef Cattle
The best way to gain an impression of your animal is to study him at a
distance, where one can readily distinguish character and gait. A bold
parader who walks freely and can stand on his feet will be a big
acquisition in moving about your paddocks and will gain the greater
drop of calves in your breeding herd.
Having viewed the animals parading at a distance, make your selections according to merit and place them so, paying particular attention to head character.
The head denotes character, temperament and constitution. The eyes should be full and bright, wide apart; from (he eyes lo the nostrils should be of moderate length; face well dished; nostrils wide and open which permits free breathing; the jaws should be wide and not undershot (parrot beaked); as bovines only spend limited periods in grazing daily, it is essential that they consume as much pasture as possible in that time. The poll should be well defined with ears well set on to the head which should not be too small and well covered with hair.
Having assessed head values, now study the symmetrical lines of the animal. The top line should be straight and square all over; standing firm on all four corners. Legs should be well placed and not too long, nor sickle hocked, for with this weakness the sire is usually lost to service in your breeding herd.
Bone constitution is assessed by the Cannon Bone. The legs should not be too long but built in proportion to the scale of the animal. A good bone skeleton is essential to carry the scale of meat for early maturity and weight.
Granted the animal has, a good top line, of equal importance is the underline, which should be straight and parallel with the top line.
We now move to the rear or business end of the animal. Here we see well-covered hook bones, with length and evenness of rump well carried out to the pin bones; this is a must in good beef qualities. Tail head should be well set. The tail should show good bone and not too line, for with this weakness it denotes poor bone constitution.
The thighs should be deep and well filled; twist well carried down and wide. Flanks should be well let down and fill your hand when taking hold of same. Even though flanks are not of high quality meat, they denote the depth of the high quality meat carried on the thighs and buttocks.
The loins should be well filled and arched out for this is where we gain our most valuable cuts.
Ribs should be well sprung and carried deep right down to the underline. This gives heart and lung room essential for breathing and healthy constitution.
The brisket should be full and well carried forward for this denotes masculinity and another point for good constitution.
Shoulders should be well laid in and not too prominent.
The neck should be of moderate length, muscular, with moderate crest (which increases with age), spreading out to meet the shoulders with full neck vein. A good neck and head conveys the sire's carriage, and shows what sex he really is.
Having briefly assessed some of the important points in seeking a sire, now look for fleshing qualities. Thickness of flesh and mellowness without excessive fat is what is required today in the marketing of high quality meat.
Now take a view over the top of the animal. This is the real pay load territory where the Exporter or Butcher assesses the value of your steers. Level, wide and straight throughout!
The hide should be loose and pliable, showing smoothness of quality to handle and covered with good quality hair. It should fill your hand, for a loose pliable hided animal will mature and fatten much more rapidly than a tight hided handler.
Having assessed the major points in visual judgment, what about the ancestry of your sire? The stock that stand behind him make him what he is and enables him to show such high quality characteristics. By this I mean his pedigree; for a sire without good standards of ancestry has little chance of transmitting his qualities for the improvement of your herd.
The ultimate goal of all beef cattle raising is beef production; the steer at the slaughterhouse is what keeps this vital and national industry buoyant.
Having surveyed the stud beef section of the show, I would strongly advocate that before you leave the showground, pay a visit to the fat cattle section, for this is the real business end of this great primary industry. Having seen the stock on the hoof your next mission must be a visit to the Meat Hall where one can readily see what actually lies beneath the hide.
The expression of a judge's opinion in a show does not convey that because a potential sire wins a prize he will transmit his good visual qualities to his stock. It has occasionally happened that an animal that did not attract much attention in the show ring and was ultimately sold for a mediocre sum of money has in actual progeny testing proved far more worthy than his prize winning counterpart.
In respect to raising calves as potential sires to-day, not sufficient attention is paid to culling. Because an animal has a pedigree, this pedigree is used as an excuse for the justification of such animal being retained as a sire. With excessively heavy feeding, foster mothering, the animal is prepared for a show. This excessive feeding is used to camouflage any characteristic weakness so as to try to deceive the judge and prospective purchasers; the latter who may not be so highly skilled in detecting such fraudulence may be foiled into purchasing an animal which will later prove to be a big disappointment as a business investment.
If far more castrating were universally adopted in young stock today, it would not be necessary for stud breeders to go in for excessively heavy feeding primarily for show ring purposes; for this camouflage is an economic waste if an animal cannot transmit, hold, and improve the quality of stock it produces.
Last and most important is the business of culling your herd. By this I mean the removal of animals not up to a standard of good beef character. Females should be assessed on their beef qualities, but the most important factor is very often overlooked; has the cow sufficient milk to nourish and promote growth in the early life of her calf? No matter how much quality a cow shows she is of very little value commercially unless she can reproduce a worthy specimen. It is better to spey this animal, fatten her and send her to the abattoir.
One of the most important phases of beef cattle raising is the individual who owns and manages his business. The mere purchase of high quality sires and females does not in itself ensure that those high standards will be maintained. To achieve a continuance of the high standards possessed by the parent stock requires that the individual breeder assess and carry out genetical principles correctly, and, above all, manage his property and pastures well- for, after all, good pastures and watering facilities are most important in the raising of prime early maturing stock.
A good cattle raiser is born and it is his natural aptitude that makes him a genius in the art of good cattle husbandry. After all, no matter what practical knowledge we may possess, behind the scenes it goes much deeper than can be orally expressed; the word is instinct, something which guides our subconscious actions in this direction.