An official website of the United States government.

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Use of Dentition and Skeletal Maturity to Verify Ages of Cattle Harvested in U.S. Fed Beef Plants

Investigators
Miller, Mark
Institutions
Texas Tech University
Start date
2003
End date
2004
Objective
1. To determine and document the effectiveness of using dentition to verify actual ages of cattle in the U.S. fed beef population.

2. To determine if USDA skeletal maturity could be used, instead of dentition, to verify actual ages of cattle harvested in U.S. fed beef plants.

More information
Findings: Sampling procedures resulted in reasonably balanced proportions of heifers and steers and adequate representation of the three predominant cattle types (British, Brahman, and Continental European) in the U.S. beef cattle population. A small group of Mexican-type (Corriente) steers was included in the sample, but no dairy cattle were sampled. Consistent with the focus of our sampling efforts, most (85%) of the cattle were 18 months or older. However, an obvious deficiency in the sample is the small number of cattle with actual ages of 30 months and older. Dentition also seemed effective for identifying cattle with actual ages of 30 months or older, correctly classifying over 94% of the cattle in this age category. Of concern, from the standpoint of SRM control, is the fact that 5.9% of the cattle with actual ages of 30 months or older were misclassified as being less than 30 months old.

Skeletal maturity was not consistently related to differences in actual age and, therefore, was not effective for use in identifying cattle 30 months old or older. Of the cattle with actual ages of 30 months or older, 59.7% were incorrectly classified as being less than 30 months old based on their skeletal maturity scores. Though carcass skeletal maturity, as used in the Official U.S. Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef (USDA, 1996), has been shown to be effective for classifying beef carcasses into expected-palatability groups (Hilton et al., 1998), results of the present study suggest that skeletal maturity has little value for verifying ages of cattle whose actual ages are unknown.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Cattlemen's Beef Assoc.
Project number
BC-2003-10