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      Life on the Farm: Ultrasound sees animals' potential

      Ultrasound looks beneath the hide to rate a bull's potential.

      You expect to see an ultrasound on a pregnant woman's belly, but the same technology is helping farmers see the quality meat they're producing.

      Angus breeder Roland Hudson from Centralia can see how his bulls are eating and growing, but there's a way for him to see what is hidden from view. He hosted two independent examiners to his farm to evaluate his cattle for the Missouri Angus Association .

      "It's like Christmas," says Hudson. "We're looking underneath the present, under the wrapper and seeing what's there."

      Each animal has an area shaved, blown off to get clean, and then covered in lubricant and checked with an ultrasound wand.

      Russell Coon looks for intramuscular fat. "Which is related to marbling score which is the Choice, Select, Prime that some may have heard of before," explains Coon.

      He also looks for external fat.

      A representative from MU Extension looks at other attributes of the bulls to list more information for an upcoming sale.

      Asst. Livestock Specialist Heather Smith explains, "We look at the overall body grade score and how close phenotypically to perfect they are." She also looks at the soundness of the bulls to see if they are suitable for breeding in the field.

      Data gathered from the ultrasounds will be used to help the Angus Association formulate numbers called EPD's or expected progeny differences. They show a bull's breeding value. That's what Hudson uses to sell his bulls to farmers looking to improve their herd.

      "The EPD's allow the buyer to compare my bull's potential against another breeders potential," says Hudson. "Everyone can see exactly the genetic potential of every bull in the sale and then make their decision which they wish to buy."

      For more on a Mid-Missouri bull auction using this type of technology to grade bulls, and other stories from our "Life on the Farm" series, see the links below.