Key Points for Judging Beef Heifers

  • Evaluate heifers first from the ground up and then from the rump (rear) forward.
  • Rank the traits for their importance.
  • Evaluate the most important Traits first.
  • Eliminate any easy placings.
  • Place the class based on the volume on the important traits.

Ranking of Traits for Judging Beef Heifers

  • Soundness and structural correctness.
  • Capacity or volume.
  • Style and balance.
  • Degree of muscling
  • Femininity.

Evaluating Soundness and Structural Correctness

When evaluating soundness and structural correctness, attention should be given to:

  • Front and rear leg columns
  • Feet
  • Pasterns
  • Hocks
  • Knees
  • Rump
  • Shoulders

Evaluating Structure - Front Leg Column

Evaluating Structure - Front Leg Column

Problems associated with incorrect front leg column structure in heifers:

  • Splay-footed:
    • Added pressure on knee joints
    • Wears off inside toes
  • Pigeon-toed:
    • Added pressure on knee joint
    • Wears off outside toes

Evaluating Structure - Rear Leg Column

Evaluating structure rear leg column

Problems associated with incorrect rear leg column structure in heifers:

  • Cow-hocked:
    • Added pressure on hock joint
    • Wears off inside toes
  • Bow-legged:
    • Added pressure on hock joint
    • Wears off outside toes

Evaluating Structure - Rear Leg Column

Evaluating structure rear leg column correct cow hocked

Evaluating Structure - Feet

Evaluating structure feet turned out depth of heel


Evaluating structure Excellent foot qualities

Evaluating Structure - Pasterns

Evaluating structure pasterns too weak too straight

Evaluating structure Excellent pasterns


Evaluating Structure - Hocks

Evaluating structure hocks correct sickle post

Problems associated with incorrect hock angle in heifers:

  • Sickle-hocked:
    • Added pressure on hip and rump
    • Poor heel depth
  • Post-legged:
    • Limited flexibility and increased stress on hock joints
    • Often hock swelling and (or) lameness
    • Wears off front of toes

Evaluating structure hocks sickle post legged

Evaluating structure Excellent hocks

Evaluating Structure - Rump

When evaluating rump structure we are concerned with having the proper slope from hooks to pins:

  • If too much slope:
    • Added pressure on rear leg column joints
    • Added stress on hip-loin junction
    • Can result in sickle-hocks
  • If too little slope:
    • Added pressure on rear leg column joints
    • Can result in post-legged hocks

Evaluating structure Rump

Evaluating structure Rump Excellent Rump

Evaluating Structure - Shoulders

When evaluating shoulder structure we are looking for heifers that have:

  • The proper set (or slope) to the scapula:
    • Improper set puts added pressure on elbow, knee, and pastern joints and decreases flexibility.
    • Often associated with other structural defects.
  • The proper refinement (or lack of coarseness):
    • Heifers don't need big, coarse shoulders

Evaluating structure Shoulders too straight too coarse

Evaluating structure Excellent shoulder

Evaluating Capacity or Volume

Capacity (volume) is determined by 3 factors:

  • Body Width (rib shape)
    • Heifers should be wide-bodied with good spring of rib.
  • Depth of body
    • When viewed from the side, body depth should be at least 1/2 of the distance from the top of the back to the ground.
  • Length of body
    • Heifers should be long-bodied.

Evaluating Capacity

Evaluating capacity Narrow bodied short flanked

Evaluating capacity excellent rib shape body depth

Evaluating style and Balance

Style and balance refers to how well all the pieces of the heifer fit together.  Points to consider include:

  • Straightness of top-line.
  • Balance between body width, body depth, and body length.
  • Smoothness and angularity of front.
  • Blending of the shoulder, ribs, and hip.

Evaluating style and Balance Unbalanced Alert

Evaluating style and Balance Unbalanced Alert

Evaluating style and Balance good front end

Evaluating style and Balance Excellent style and balance

Evaluating Muscle

To determine degree of muscling, evaluate the following:

  • Thickness through the center of the quarter when viewed from the rear.
  • Width between rear feet when the heifer walks and stands.
  • Shape over the top (shape of the loin).

Evaluating muscle light average heavy muscled

Evaluating degree of muscling great top shape

Evaluating Femininity

When evaluating femininity in heifers, pay careful attention to the following:

  • Refinement of the head.
  • Length of the neck.
  • Angularity of the neck and shoulder.
  • Blending of the shoulder to the forerib.

Evaluating Femininity not feminine


Evaluating Femininity Super Feminine

Foot Score Guidelines

Final Tips for Judging Heifers

  • Remember the important traits.
  • Know what "correct" looks like.
  • Look at lots of beef heifers.
  • Practice your judging skills

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