U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



J. Anim. Sci. 2003. 81:676–682


Copyright 2003 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.


Five hundred thirty-four steers were evaluated over a 2-yr period to determine the accuracy of ultrasonic estimates of carcass 12th-rib fat thickness (CFAT) and longissimus muscle area (CLMA). Within 5 d before slaughter, steers were ultrasonically measured for 12th-rib fat thickness (UFAT) and longissimus muscle area (ULMA) using an Aloka 500V real-time ultrasound machine equipped with a 17.2-cm, 3.5-MHz linear transducer. Overall, correlation coefficients between ultrasound and carcass fat and longissimus muscle area were 0.89 and 0.86, respectively. Correlations for UFAT with CFAT were similar between years (0.86 and 0.90), whereas the relationship between ULMA and CLMA was stronger in yr 1 (r = 0.91; n = 282) than in yr 2 (r = 0.79; n = 252). Differences between ultrasonic and carcass measurements were expressed on both an actual (FDIFF and RDIFF) and absolute (FDEV and RDEV) basis. Mean FDIFF and RDIFF indicated that ultrasound underestimated CFAT by 0.06 cm and overestimated CLMA by 0.71 cm2 across both years. Overall mean FDEV and RDEV, which are indications of the average error rate, were 0.16 cm and 3.39 cm2, respectively. Analysis of year effects revealed that FDIFF, FDEV, and RDEV were greater (P < 0.01) in magnitude in yr 1. Further analysis of FDEV indicated that leaner (CFAT < 0.51 cm) cattle were overestimated and that fatter (CFAT > 1.02 cm) cattle were underestimated with ultrasound. Similarly, steers with small CLMA (<71.0 cm2) were overestimated, and steers with large CLMA (>90.3 cm2) were underestimated. The thickness of CFAT had an effect (P < 0.05) on the error of UFAT and ULMA measurements, with leaner animals being more accurately evaluated for both traits. Standard errors of prediction (SEP) adjusted for bias of ultrasound measurements were 0.20 cm and 4.49 cm2 for UFAT and ULMA, respectively. Differences in SEP were observed for ULMA, but not UFAT, by year. These results indicate that ultrasound can be an accurate estimator of carcass traits in live cattle when measurements are taken by an experienced, well-trained technician, with only small differences in accuracy between years.