Doug Pierce, division chair for agriculture at Blinn College, provided tips on basic beef cattle selection. He said skeletal soundness and body volume are key criteria in profitable cattle selection.

As a side note, Pierce noted that an often overlooked “real world” criteria is width of muzzle or “wide-mouthed cattle.”  He prefers wide-mouthed cows that are capable of consuming large amounts of forage.

“A cow is nothing more than Mother Nature’s hay baler,” he said. “The kids at Blinn always laugh at me when I say I like a cow with a wide mouth. She’s like a machine and width of muzzle always (allows) her to harvest and process more forage in a day – like a hay baler.”

Pierce said a cow must have the correct type of muscle or “beef” surrounding this sound skeleton.

“Muscle is what we sell in the beef industry,” said Pierce, but this muscle has to be designed to facilitate fluid movement of the cow, not inhibit it.

“A good cow with skeletal soundness and proper body depth is capable of consuming large volumes of forage (if available) daily and produce beef,” he said.

In a live cattle demonstration, Pierce discussed in great detail what ranchers should be looking for when purchasing replacement cattle. Some points to keep in mind include evaluating how a cow stands, whether or not they are post-legged or buck-kneed, and the length of neck.

“Shoulder angularity and its effect on neck length is a good indicator of skeletal soundness,” he said.