New use for ultrasound technology could lower beef prices

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Updated: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 06:49:44 CST

It's no secret it costs a pretty penny to feed a thousand pound cattle.

"Last year it was five dollars a day about," said Richard Hollman with Hollman Angus out of Hallam, Nebraska. 

"This year we figured it was about a thousand dollars a cow calf pair," said Melissa Buehler with Valley Creek Ranch out of Fairbury, Nebraska. 

Which is why experts at North Dakota State University want to use an old technology in a new way.

"We ultrasound for marbling and back fat and ribeye," said Megan Gotschall, an ultrasound technician with Ranch County Cattle Services. 

In fact, when each cattle checks in at the Cattlemen's Classic, ultrasound technicians are taking a good look.  But, they're not searching for a pulse.

"To know what the back fat is on the bull. To know the size of the ribeye. And the amount of marbling that bull has. The amount of rump fat that bull has. And that's good information that makes that bull worth a little bit more," said Hollman. 

But what about using the imaging technology on a cow before it even hits the feed lot?

"It's interesting because it will help the producers with being cost effective and being efficient with their feed and their money," said Gotschall. 

NDSU beef cattle specialists say that way producers can identify which cattle have the potential to produce USDA prime meat.

"If you've ever ate certified Angus beef, it will always be good. It will be tender, it will be juicy because it will have that right amount of marbling in it," said Hollman.

Only those cattle will be fed the top notch feed.  And cattle without potential, won't leave the best feed wasted.

"I mean, there's plenty of uses for hamburgers too," he added. 

Ultrasound technology is already a common practice for bulls and heifers used for mating-- because if you put two choice meat animals together, your product has a greater chance of bringing in higher quality beef.