Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 September 2010
Measurements of live weight and of ultrasonic (Scanogram) fat depth and m. longissimus cross-sectional area at the 12th/13th rib were taken at 4— to 6-week intervals from 10 to 35 months of age (23 occasions) on 15 Hereford males (bulls), 15 castrate males (steers) and 15 females (heifers) managed under grazing conditions.
Mean rates of live-weight change throughout the measurement period (0·51, 0·47 and 0·39 kg/day for bulls, steers and heifers, respectively) were significantly different. When compared at the same ages, fat depth was similar in the steers and heifers, beginning at about 3 mm and increasing to 11 mm. Fat depth changed little in the bulls, beginning at 1·7 mm and increasing to 3 mm. At the same age, bulls had larger m. longissimus cross-sectional areas than steers and steers had larger muscle cross-sectional areas than heifers.
Absolute variation within sex groups increased throughout the experiment in live weight and fat depth, but not in m. longissimus crosssectional area. Simple correlation coefficients, pooled within sex groups, of relationships between the same measurements at various measuring occasions, indicated that measurements of fat depth and of muscle cross-sectional area at 10 to 12 months of age are poor indicators of these measurements at periods of 6 months or more later in life.
When compared at the same live weights, heifers had the greatest and bulls had the smallest fat depth and, within animals, fat depth was closely related to live weight. At any live weight, m. longissimus cross-sectional area was less in heifers than in steers and bulls, which were not significantly different from each other in this trait. Equations relating fat depth and muscle area to live weight are presented and, under the conditions of this study, indicate that there is no basis for adjustment of fat depth for live weight in bulls subjected to contemporaneous selection.