Figure 12. A slightly cow-hocked steer that would be considered normal. Figure 13. An extremely cow-hocked female who is also very light muscled.
Figure 12. A slightly cow-hocked steer that would be considered normal. Figure 13. An extremely cow-hocked female who is also very light muscled.
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*This is an excerpt from Beef Conformation Basics, ANR-1452.

The two points of reference to be aware of in evaluating the hip are the hooks and pins. Both points are identified in Figures 16 and 17, with the pins being the point beneath the tail head. Although some breeds, such as those influenced by Brahman genetics, are less likely to be level, the ideal beef animal would be nearly level from hooks to pins. Although it is not always the case, a level hip normally equals a longer, more muscular hip if for no other reason than length itself. Also, a level hip is normally considered more eye-appealing. As the hip becomes less level, it can become shorter and be associated with other issues such as cattle having their hind legs placed too far beneath them.

Some producers have defended cattle with a minor slope from hooks to pins by saying these cattle have an advantage when it comes to calving and expelling afterbirth. As long as the slope is not extreme, not much compromise is made in regard to structural correctness.

One of the more problematic arrangements of the hip can be found when cattle are higher at their pins than at their hooks. In females, this can lead to problems with calving and expelling afterbirth. Although the calving problem is only expressed in females, breeding bulls exhibiting this characteristic should be selected against as well in order to not perpetuate the characteristic.

Read here to learn more about beef conformation basics.

Download a PDF of Beef Conformation Basics, ANR-1452.

*This is an excerpt from Beef Conformation Basics, ANR-1452.

From the front, cattle whose hooves are faced forward are ideal. The steer shown in figure 14 is a good example of both hooves pointing directly forward. Much as it is with the hind legs, some angle in the outward direction is acceptable, and any angle of 10 degrees or less is accepted as normal. Functionality of the front end is normally not compromised until the outward turn approaches 30 degrees or more. Cattle with this condition are commonly referred to as being splay footed. Cattle that are splay footed can usually also be classified as being knock kneed. Figure 15 is a good example of a heifer having both of these conditions.

Another condition in beef cattle concerning the front limbs occurs when the front hooves point inward toward each other. Cattle exhibiting this condition are said to be pigeon toed. This condition is rarely seen and is detrimental to the functionality of the forelimbs.


This is the December excerpt of Beef Cow Herd Planning Calendar, ANR-0968-A.

Health Tips

  • Monitor cattle for lice.
  • Supplement vitamin A, when necessary, if frosted grass or weathered hay is the primary forage source.

Forage & Nutrition Notes

  • Monitor body condition scores, and adjust nutritional program as needed.
  • Continue using stockpiled tall fescue and bermudagrass.
  • Limiting grazing cool-season annuals for a few hours per day is a good way to use winter forages efficiently once they reach a target height of 6 to 8 inches.
  • Modify winter supplementation based on forage analysis information, availability, and herd nutritional requirements.

Winter Calving Herd

  • Make sure calving supplies are on hand.
  • Move heifers into clean, dry pastures, and check frequently.
  • Monitor bred heifers closely for calving.
  • Tag calves at birth, and keep good calving records (birth weight, tag numbers, cow IDs).
  • Establish an ID system, and tag calves at birth.

Spring Calving Herd

  • Train calves to eat from a bunk and drink from a water trough.
  • Select and permanently identify replacement heifers.
  • Plan a heifer development program to reach target breeding weights.

Fall Calving Herd

  • Calculate fall calving percentage.
  • Watch calves for scours, and restock calving supplies.
  • Begin breeding replacement heifers to calve about 1 month before cows.
  • Expect heifers bred by early December to calve by mid-September.
  • Tag, castrate, dehorn, and implant calves as soon as practically possible. Do not implant replacement heifers.