Services for Adding Value

Ultrasound Scanning

Successful purebred breeders give their customers what they want. Ultrasound is a tool that allows you to tell your customers how your genetics will impact the performance of their cattle now and into the future. Ultrasound animals provide you with fast, economical, and proven data on carcass composition of breeding stock at your fingertips.

Ultrasound of bulls and heifers can determine their genetic merit for carcass traits actually looking under the hide, without harvest. These traits are heritable. Genetic evaluation of these traits will allow breeders to select animals with the carcass traits that they desire for their breeding program.

Ultrasound scanning measures traits such as back fat depth, intramuscular fat or marbling, and rib eye area.

Before the use of ultrasound in beef cattle, formal progeny testing was the only method to collect carcass data on seedstock. Test bulls, as well as reference sires, are bred to cows with the resulting progeny finished to slaughter and carcass measurements taken. This method is time consuming, expensive and impractical for many producers. EPDs are more useful than actual data in providing the best genetic prediction of the carcass merit of the animal. Ultrasound data, like other measured performance data, can vary year to year due to changes in feed (drought/nutrition), age at scanning, etc.

Canadian Angus members who collect performance information are encouraged to ultrasound breeding stock, especially replacement females which form the baseline of your herd. Ultrasound data from young bulls and heifers between 320 and 440 (for bulls) and 460 (for heifers) days of age are used in national genetic evaluations, producing North American Angus EPDs for marbling, fat and ribeye area. Lean meat yield is also calculated on scanned cattle. All data must be collected by a CUP certified technician.

Quick Facts

  • Herds must be enrolled on the Canadian Angus Performance Program.
  • Cattle are listed by tattoo, scan date, scan weight and management group on the barn worksheet.
  • Ultrasound images, chute form and barn worksheet need to be sent to the lab.
  • Cattle require a 205 day weight on file at CAA before the ultrasound scan is done.
  • Only scan bulls between 320–440 days of age and heifers between 320–460 days of age.
  • Weigh cattle the day of the scan prior to any feeding. It is preferable that they be held off feed overnight. The scan weight is used to predict empty body weight.
  • Cattle must be clipped to within 1/2 inch in all areas of scanning to improve image quality.

Ultrasound Scanning Procedures Process and How-to Guide

1. Access your ultrasound scanning barn sheets from AngusNOW reports or from the office.

2. Schedule a scan date with ultrasound technician. (Schedule an appointment with an approved certified technician at least one month in advance. The fee for scanning is set by the technician. It is recommended that smaller herds in close proximity coordinate their scanning times to reduce per head costs). (See below for list of technician contact details).

3. Prepare for ultrasound scan: (Determine management/contemporary groups. (Weigh all cattle the same day as the ultrasound scan. The scan weight should be collected when the animal is empty. Breeder responsibilities include providing the technician with adequate conditions for scanning in order to prevent rejected images. Cattle must be dry in the region of scanning and out of direct or bright sunlight to allow for the images to be seen clearly on the monitor. Supplemental heat must be provided in cold weather for the equipment and oil. A squeeze chute with side panel doors to allow access to the region of scanning is needed. Also, a safe electrical supply with a grounded 110-volt outlet is required).

4. Ultrasound technician collects images. (Images are interpreted by certified lab technicians at the ultrasound processing lab. Data is interpreted by one technician and then cross-checked by another, ensuring a high level of accuracy. If two lab technicians agree that an image does not meet image quality standards then that image is rejected, which may mean the animal does not receive data for that particular trait. Image quality often depends on optimum scanning conditions, outlined in the table below).

5. Images, barn worksheets, payment sent to the lab (After the herd is scanned, the ultrasound images, the technicians COR Form and the barn worksheet are sent to a certified lab, either by overnight courier (must pass through customs) or by FTP upload for those with access to high speed internet (faster delivery)).

6. Lab reports the interpreted data to Canadian Angus Association (Interpreted data is then sent electronically to the Canadian Angus Association office. Staff will contact the breeder if further information is needed (for example, an incorrect tattoo or a missing 205 day weight). We create an ultrasound report, with ultrasound measurements adjusted to a common 365 days of age for bulls and 390 days for heifers. Lean meat yield is calculated and the cattle are ranked within their contemporary groups).

7. Canadian Angus Association returns ultrasound report to member. (The ultrasound report is posted on the download area of the website for members or mailed to the breeder).

8. Ultrasound data used in bi-annual genetic evaluations. (EPDs are calculated monthly during the genetic evaluation. If both parents of the scanned animal have an ultrasound EPD, then the calf can immediately receive an ultrasound pedigree estimate.)

Scanning Guidelines

Yearling Bulls
Diet: Bulls should be placed on a high-energy ration (3 lbs/day gain) after weaning so that differences among bulls for fat thickness and marbling traits are expressed.
Age: Bulls must be between 320 and 440 days of age at time of scanning. Try to schedule the ultrasound scan on bulls at or near the end of the bull test.

Yearling Replacement Heifers
Diet: Use a normal heifer development program, preferably with a moderate to high-energy ration, in order to allow heifers to express their genetic potential for fat thickness and percentage intramuscular fat.
Age: Heifers must be between 320 and 460 days of age at time of scanning. It is suggested that heifers be scanned prior to breeding, closer to the 460 day age window.

Management/Contemporary Groups
A contemporary group of cattle is exposed to the same environmental conditions. They have been managed the same, in the same environment. A contemporary group has a minimum of two calves of the same sex and similar age managed the same way. If cattle are treated differently, for example different feeding or one was sick, they must be separated.

Once separated into different management groups they will not be ranked together again. Cattle within a contemporary group must be scanned on the same day or over no more than two consecutive days. Purchased calves have grown in a different environment, so they will be in a separate contemporary group and ranked separately from home-raised calves. Setting proper management groups is a key responsibility of breeders to provide accurate and predictable performance records.

Importance of a 205 day weight: a 205 day weight on record at the Canadian Angus Association office is needed in order to calculate the adjusted weights and lean meat yield for the animal. You must send 205 day weights to obtain your barn worksheet.

Certified CUP Technicians

Walter & Associates, LLC (the CUP Lab) is the Ultrasound Guidelines Council Centralized Ultrasound Processing lab approved by the Canadian Angus Association to interpret ultrasound images for cattle in the Canadian Angus Performance Program.


The CUP Lab™,
LLC2610 Northridge Parkway
Suite 105
Ames, IA 50010 Phone: (515) 232-9442
Fax: (515) 232-9578


Doug Ralph
Windy Ridge Ultrasound
Box 364
Raymond, AB T0K 2S0 Phone: (403) 752-3751
Fax: (403) 752-4020
Cell: (403) 315-4799

Rod Wendorff
Windy Ridge Ultrasound
Box 1023
Raymond, AB T0K 2S0 Phone: (403) 330-3000
Fax: (403) 752-4066

Dr. Laura Macrae
Westlock, Alberta
Phone: (780) 977 - 9615

Jasper Munro
Elora, ON Phone: (519) 385-0360

Jamie Jensen-Whitney
Maple Creek, SK Phone: (306) 662-4420

Shari Leachman
Maidstone, SK Phone: (306) 903-7289

Ultrasound Definitions

An external fat measurement taken between the 12th and 13th ribs, measured in inches.

An external measurement taken between the hooks and pins, measured in inches. The rump fat and the rib fat measurements are used to determine the overall external body fat.

Area of the longissimus muscle, measured in square inches. The trait is moderately to highly heritable and gives an indication of overall carcass muscling.

Percentage of fat in the ribeye area muscle (similar to marbling). The field technician collects four images and the values generated by the interpreting software are averaged for an overall %IMF. Marbling directly contributes to beef palatability.

Ultrasound FAQs

A: Bulls: between 320–440 days of age (yearlings); Heifers: between 320–460 days of age (yearlings).

A: It is no different than the rules for the other EPDs. The ultrasounded calf will get an EPD on the next evaluation, provided that it has a 205 day weight recorded, and is not an ET calf or a single. The parents will also get EPDs for REA, %IMF and Fat based on the EPD of their progeny, although the accuracy is lower than if they had their own data. The genetic evaluation uses a full animal model, meaning that all pedigree information is weighted within the calculations.

A: Ultrasound allows you to select for improved carcass traits and better predict the genetic merit of breeding stock.

A: Rump fat, Rib fat, Ribeye Area and Intramuscular Fat (%IMF).

A: Some images will not make it through the interpretation process at the lab for the following reasons:

  1. Missing Image: The technician could have neglected to save an image, the animal could have escaped the chute, or it could be due to equipment difficulties.
  2. Image Quality: Each image must have certain landmarks to show that the image has been properly collected. If landmarks are missing or not correctly represented, the image cannot be interpreted. Rejection could be caused by the animal moving and blurring the image, poor contact due to insufficient prepping of the animal, or improper equipment calibration.
  3. Narrow Image: only occurs with %IMF when the loin is not deep enough. The interpreting software has a 4.25 cm box that must fit between the 12th and 13th ribs, between the external fat and the top of the ribs on the image. Narrow images are most common on lighter muscled cattle and heifers. It is recommended that breeders scan heifers closer to the 460 day age window to help avoid rejections.

A: Marbling differences are difficult to detect in thin animals. Place bulls on a high energy ration (about 3 lbs gain/day) after weaning. Use a normal heifer development program, with a moderate to high energy ration.

A: Canadian Angus Association requires high standards of data collection:

  1. CUP technicians are rigorously trained and tested.
  2. Scanned images are anonymously read and cross checked at the CUP lab.
  3. Clipping small areas of the coat is required in order to improve image accuracy.

A: The National CUP Lab guarantees that complete data will be processed in seven business days.

A: Contact a CUP certified technician at least a month in advance of your scan date. If you have not received an ultrasound barn worksheet with your latest 365 day worksheet, contact the CAA before the scheduled scan date. Individual animals not included on the barn worksheet may be written in.

A: Scanning fees are determined by the ultrasound technician—contact them for an estimate. CUP lab costs are US$4 per head, payable to the lab. There is no charge for processing ultrasound data at the Canadian Angus Association.

A: Your ultrasound technician must be certified by an industry group called the Ultrasound Guidelines Council and approved by the Canadian Angus Association. A list of approved technicians is available on the Canadian Angus Association website.

A: The accuracy of %IMF is greatly improved when the hair is clipped to 1/2 inch in length or less in the scan area.

A: No, 365 day weights must be sent to Canadian Angus Association separate from the ultrasound information. If the scan weight is to be used for a 365 day weight the breeder is responsible for submitting the weight as a yearling weight to the Canadian Angus Association. The scan weight will not automatically be used as a 365 day weight.

A. There could be several reasons, but the most likely one is that they were separated at weaning into different management/contemporary groups.

A. While the test station may compare all of the bulls, the Angus genetic analysis will compare only your bulls. All of the other bulls have been raised in different environments before arriving at the test station. Therefore, they cannot be fairly compared.

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Although the ultrasound program is voluntary, the Canadian Angus Association would like all breeders on the Canadian Angus Performance Program to participate.

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