In 2009, 3 million beef cows, 2.6 million dairy cows, and 525,000 bulls were slaughtered in the U.S., representing 20.4% of all cattle slaughtered. Based upon inventory, this represents 9% of all beef cows, 28% of all dairy cows, and 25% of all bulls at that time. Since 67% of cattle evaluated during the 2007 National Market Cow and Bull Beef Quality Audit displayed a USDA back tag, it is evident that a majority of market cows and bulls are sold immediately before slaughter through livestock auction markets.

In a study published in 2000, it was estimated that close to 20% of cow-calf income and 4% of dairy income is derived from the sale of market cows and bulls. In a separate survey study, 95% of market dairy cows went directly to slaughter. Adding value to market cows and bulls is one thing. Minimizing or eliminating quality defects is another. The 2007 National Market Cow and Bull Beef Quality Audit documented that 31% of cattle evaluated in holding pens at markets had at least one visible quality defect that detracted from the market price.

Investigators from the University of Idaho, Oklahoma State University, and the California Beef Council recently published data regarding quality defects in market beef and dairy cows and bulls sold through livestock auction markets in the Western U.S. This study was conducted during two seasons of 2008 and involved 18,949 lots (23,479 animals) of adult market cattle. Observations were made in three different states at 10 livestock auction markets. Nine personnel evaluated the lots for 23 different Beef Quality Assurance-related traits.

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