Animal with mud and manure score of 2.
Animal with mud and manure score of 2.


By Beth Doran, ISU Extension beef specialist


April showers bring May flowers, but they also bring mud. However, animal cleanliness is more than just a function of weather in an outside lot. Potential exists for manure tags on animals housed in confinement.

 One part of the BQA (Beef Quality Assurance) curriculum entails scoring cattle for mud and manure. These scores range from one (a clean animal with no tag) to five (an animal carrying excessive tag from top to bottom and front to rear).

 There are several reasons why mud and manure scoring is important. The comfortable temperature for cattle with a clean, dry hair coat is 23°F to 77°F. Once the coat becomes matted, the insulation potential and loss of heat is reduced, increasing cold stress and heat stress respectively.

 Mud and manure affects animal performance, decreasing average daily gain 255 to 37%, dry matter intake 15% to 30% and feed efficiency 20% to 33%. 

 Carcass dressing percent is reduced. Iowa research indicates this reduction may range from 1% to 2.5% as mud scores increase from 1 to 5. A 1% reduction on a 1,400-lb steer is 14 lb. At the weekly cash price (April 2) of $118.89/cwt, this equates to a loss of $16.64 per animal. But this is not the only economic cost. Private correspondence with a packer indicates that it may cost $30 to clean an excessively dirty hide.   

There also is potential for increased levels of E.coli 0157:H7. Shipping clean animals with little or no tag may minimize contamination of the trailer, as well as contamination of the carcass at the processor level. 

 Beef processors use a variety of methods to reduce possible contamination, but occasionally there is a beef recall, which is damaging to the whole industry. Recovery of product is costly, investment values decline and consumer confidence in the safety of beef erodes. 

 Recalls cost the beef industry millions of dollars. Ultimately, cow-calf producers, feedlots, transporters, processors, retailers and consumers need to implement best management practices that ensure beef quality and safety.