Evaluation of maturity is part of USDA grading of beef for quality. Maturity in this application has been estimation of physiological age rather than actual chronological age. Indicators of physiological age are bone characteristics, ossification of cartilage, and color and texture of ribeye muscle. USDA grades divide maturity into five categories. Carcasses from cattle estimated to be from 9 to 30 months of age are A maturity; B maturity is from 30 to 42 months. Recently, two other methods have been approved for establishing A-category carcass maturity.

One method is based on dentition. USDA-Food Inspection Service “deems cattle to be 30 months of age and older if at least one of the second set of permanent incisors has erupted (the first set of permanent incisors of cattle erupt from 24 through 30 months of age)”. Another method will be by “documentation of age as verified through USDA-approved programs and by USDA-Food Inspection Service at the slaughter facility”.

Whether determined by dentition or documented age, A maturity will be established without estimating physiological age, except that “any carcasses exhibiting advanced skeletal maturity (D and E maturity, older than 96 months of age) will not be eligible for Prime, Choice, Select, or Standard grade”.

Note: Carcasses of either A or B maturity can be graded Choice if amount of marbling is Modest or Moderate (upper 2/3 Choice amount, minimum for many branded beef programs). But carcasses with Small amount of marbling can be graded Choice only if A maturity. Also, carcasses with Slight marbling can be graded Select only if A maturity.




Over three years, 300 spring-born Angus-based crossbred heifers averaging 511 lb were developed for approximately 160 days after weaning on one of three systems:

– graze upland range, plus 1 lb/day distillers-based supplement (RNG);

– graze corn residue for approximately 90 days and then graze upland range, plus 1 lb/day

distillers-based supplement on residue and range (CR);

– fed in drylot on 74% grass hay, 26% concentrate (DHI);

– fed in drylot on 83% grass hay, 17% concentrate (DLO).

After the development period, all groups were combined and managed in drylot on the DHI diet for 35 days. At that point, heifers were synchronized for AI breeding followed by cleanup bulls.

Across the four groups, there were some statistically significant differences for development ADG, body weight after development, and prebreeding body weight. For those three traits, DHI was significantly higher than RNG or CR but not DLO. Across RNG, CR, and DLO there were no significant differences in the three traits. Across the four groups there was no significant difference in % AI pregnancy, final (after cleanup) % pregnancy, feed efficiency while pregnant, % of heifers that calved in the first 21 days, or overall calving %. Also, across the four groups there was no significant difference in calf birth weight, calving difficulty, calf vigor, total development cost, or net cost per pregnant heifer.

The authors concluded “a variety of heifer development systems may be utilized with no detriment to pregnancy rates, feed efficiency as first-calf heifers, or first-calf calving characteristics”.

(J. Animal Sci. 95: 5320; Univ. of Nebraska)



Premium Red Baldy has been announced jointly by the Red Angus Association of America and the American Hereford Association. This program, targeting only females, is intended to “generate females for the commercial producer by emphasizing longevity, fertility, adaptability, and efficiency”. Participants must verify that eligible females are sired by AHA or RAAA registered and transferred bulls”. Bulls must rank in the top one-half of the AHA Baldy Maternal Index (for breeding to Red Angus females) or the RAAA Herdbuilder Index (for breeding to Hereford females) to produce heifers ranging from 25% to 75% of each breed.


The American Brahman Association has had programs since 1979 for producing verified hybrid females. Golden Certified F-1 is for a female that is the progeny of two registered parents. The Certified F-1 program “permits use of 1) registered Brahman bulls on registered or qualified, purebred, non-registered cows of other breeds or 2) registered bulls of other breeds on registered or qualified, purebred, non-registered Brahman cows”. Both programs yield the same result, a 1/2 Brahman – 1/2 Bos taurus breed.

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A group of 135 crossbred steer calves was either 1) not implanted as an experimental control (CON), 2) implanted with Ralgro®) at branding at average age of 58 days (EARLY); or implanted at average age of 121 days (LATE). At weaning, CON averaged weighing 587 lb, EARLY 600 lb, and LATE 600 lb. This difference of 13 lb from implanting was not statistically significantly different. (NOTE: Over many years and many studies, nursing implants have averaged 20-25 lb increase at weaning, but with much variability across studies with differing production conditions.)

After weaning, all steers were placed on feed and were implanted with Revalor®-IS. After 97 days on feed, all were implanted with Revalor®-200). After 47 days, the heaviest steers received Optaflexx® 45 for 35 days and then were slaughtered. The remaining lighter-weight steers also received Optaflexx® 45 for 35 days, starting 21 days after the heavier group, and then were slaughtered.

In the finishing yard, there were no significant differences across the three nursing treatment groups in ADG, final weight, or feed efficiency. Approximately 85% of carcasses graded Low Choice or higher and Yield Grade 2 or 3. There were no significant differences in any carcass traits or tenderness evaluation. The authors concluded, “Timing of nursing implant did not influence overall live performance, carcass characteristics, or meat quality of steers fed in this study”.

(J. Anim. Sci. 95:5388; So. Dakota St. Univ., Univ. of Nebraska)



The National Restaurant Association has released its 2018 Culinary Forecast, based on a survey of 700 professional chefs. Several predicted trends involve beef:

  • 69% (highest for any trend) listed as a Hot Trend new cuts such as two from the chuck (shoulder tender and Vegas strip steak) and two from the round (oyster tender and Merlot cut) but there are not many of these in a carcass and all are small;
  • 61% listed plant-based burgers;
  • 61% listed house-made sausage;
  • 60% listed heritage-breed meat;
  • 43% listed grass-fed beef;
  • 41% listed gourmet burgers;
  • 38% listed inexpensive/underused meats, such as chicken feet, pig ears, tongue, oxtail;
  • 37% listed sliders/mini burgers in kids meals;
  • 29% listed comfort foods, such as chicken pot pie, meat loaf;
  • 27% listed barbecue
  • 27% listed bone marrow;
  • 22% listed offal, such as heart, tripe, liver, sweetbreads.

Keep in mind those sampled were professional chefs. This does not account for what might be seen as Hot Trends by McDonald’s chefs.




Sixty Angus x Hereford heifers averaging 210 days of age and 462 lb were developed for 182 days. One half of the heifers (LOT) were managed in three 33 ft X 46 ft lots, resulting in space allotted of 150 sq ft/heifer. The other one-half (PAST) were managed on three 60-acre pastures, resulting in stocking density of 6.2 ac/heifer. Pastures were harvested for hay immediately before heifers were grazed, so there was negligible forage available. Both drylot and pasture groups received the same ration daily of 11 lb alfalfa hay, 7.7 lb corn, and free-choice mineral-vitamin mix.

Pedometers were used every 7 days to assess activity. Not surprisingly, PAST took 6 times as many steps/week as LOT. There was no significant difference in ADG (avg. 1.7 lb/day) or final body weight (avg. 784 lb), nor in measures of temperament at the end of the development period. Cortisol levels, a measure of stress, were assessed approximately every 50 days and were significantly higher in LOT. By about two months of development, PAST had significantly higher percentages of puberty attainment, which continued until the end of development.

The authors concluded that developing heifers in drylot, resulting in higher animal density than on pasture, increased stress and delayed puberty. These effects existed even though ADG and final weight did not differ across the two management groups. NOTE: Drylot heifer development is being done more, especially in areas where feeds such as corn silage are more available.  In addition to the effects in this study, some researchers and producers have postulated that heifer development under conditions different from those of the cowherd might cloud using performance during development to predict subsequent lifetime performance.

(2017 West. Sec. Am. Soc. of Anim. Sci. Proceedings p. 15; Oregon St. Univ.)



Recently, the National Organic Standards Board voted to allow hydroponic crops to be allowed under USDA-AMS organic certification standards. This was the last straw to some organic and animal welfare groups, who believe standards are below what consumers think of as “organic” and do not adequately address animal welfare. In short, the new standards would have included more restrictions on production procedures for organic products, particularly involving livestock handling and transport to slaughter and avian living conditions. USDA-AMS had developed and planned to implement the new standards in the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule. But they announced on Dec. 18, 2017, it will not do so because the rule would exceed its statutory authority.

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Cow body condition score (BCS 1 = emaciated, 9 = obese)) prior to or at calving is the major factoring affecting subsequent pregnancy rates. To optimize pregnancy rates, 2- and 3-year-old females should be in BCS 6 or higher at calving and cows 4 years old or older should be in BCS 5 or higher. After calving, weight loss should be controlled so that cows don’t lose more than 1 body condition score in about 100 days. If hay or forage quality is low then appropriate supplementation to achieve or maintain these targets will ensure that low BCS does not reduce pregnancy rate.

(From Jason Banta, Ph. D., , Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator)

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