“How are his feet?”
If you are marketing Brahman seedstock, chances are that is a question you have encountered on multiple occasions.
In recent times, there has been much more attention placed on improving foot quality to increase longevity in herd, and for good reason… cattle cost way too much to develop to not receive a full productive life.
The best way to ensure improvements in hoof quality is to apply selection pressure and stop breeding cattle with bad feet. Keep records of your cattle’s foot quality and practice stringent culling processes to start improving.
How to Start Foot Scoring
Everyone has to start somewhere. Step one is to do an initial assessment of your herd. Bring your cattle into an area with a flat, clean surface. A concrete pad like a working chute area works great. Look at all four of their feet, and make your judgment. Write down a score for every animal in your herd.
This might seem obvious, but, just to be clear, you must assign a foot score before hoof trimming. If you purchased an animal that has been altered by foot trimming, going further is probably not worth it. We don’t condone feet trimming in our sale bulls. Unless a bull is a show bull, there should be no need to trim his feet.
Next, what happens if the bull has a curling toe on his left hoof, but the right is fine. Score the bull based off the worst foot.
You’ll want to take the animal’s age into consideration. You should foot score cattle for the first time right at 1 year old (320 days minimum). As cattle get older, any foot problems are going to worsen. So take the age of the animal into consideration.
So, as an animal matures, make adjustments for the natural changes in foot structure we commonly associate with aging in a breeding animal.
Explanation of Foot Scoring Values
There are two traits we’re observing when doing a proper foot score:
- Claw Set
- Foot Angle
The claw set refers to the spacing and set to the two individual hooves. The foot angle measures the set to their pasterns and foot.
For both categories, you will assign a score from 1 to 9, with 5 being the ideal score.
Next, let’s discuss foot angle. As shown in the diagram, a score of 1 is an animal with a very straight pastern and with a short toe. The score of 5 is where you want to be. Score 5 is described as a 45-degree angle to the pastern with adequate length of toe and depth of heel. On the other end of the chart, you’ll see a score of 9. A foot angle score of 9 is an extremely shallow heel, long toe and weak pastern. The further away from the center score of 5, the worse it is. A 1 is very bad, and a 9 is very bad too. However, a 4 or 6 probably isn’t worth culling over, as it’s only 1 level away from ideal.
Now, look at claw set. Similarly, the scores range from 1 to 9 with 5 being ideal. For claw set, an animal scored a 1 is considered to have a very weak, open hoof and is unsound. The score of 5 is shown with a perfect symmetrical foot with appropriate spacing. Score 9 is an extremely curled claw set/ screw claw with crossing over of the hoof.
BRC: Leaders in Foot Quality
As you can see, BRC prides ourselves on positive customer feedback and repeat business. We have heard from many first time customers at BRC in that the reason they’re buying their bulls from us now is because they trust us for honesty and transparency. They’ve had problems in the past with bad feed, and they made a change and decided to buy bulls from BRC.
Here are a few ways we work to make sure we eliminate foot problems for our customers:
- First, we cull ruthlessly. Brandon Cutrer will not tolerate a bad foot. He once even castrated a former National Show Class Winning Bull because he didn’t like his foot shape. Any bulls that have bad feet are castrated and put into our beef program.
- Next, we refuse to trim feet on our sale bulls. Masking a problem just to make a sale isn’t worth it.
- We try to take close up photos of any AI sires feet and make those photos publicly available.
- BRC is the first and only Brahman breeders to include close up pictures of all sale bulls feet in our sale catalogs.
- Finally, you won’t see us picturing bad-footed bulls in tall grass to try to hide problems.
If you’re in the market for Brahman bulls that will add quality, add performance, and stand the test of time, give us a call or email Keaton Dodd, director of genetics. We want to supply your Brahman bulls and help give you a 100% positive experience in buying, breeding, and using Brahman bulls.