Figure 16. Female exhibiting a slight slope from hooks to pins. Figure 17. Female with ideal level hip structure
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*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 an excerpt from Beef Conformation Basics, ANR-1452.

When evaluating beef cattle from the rear, hooves of the animal should point forward. However, that is not the case in a large number of beef cattle. In many instances, the hooves of the hind legs turn outward instead of pointing forward. Cattle with this condition are commonly referred to as being cow hocked. The hocks are also usually turned inward and can be closer together than the hooves in some extreme cases. In milder cases, cattle are unhindered in terms of normal productivity. The steer shown in Figure 12 is slightly cow hocked but would be considered normal, as anything less than a 10-degree angle is considered as normal. In some extreme cases, this condition can result in uneven toe growth and wear. Cattle more extreme in this condition are usually very light muscled as is the heifer shown in Figure 13.

Less commonly seen in beef cattle is the condition known as bowleggedness. This term is used to describe cattle whose hooves are pointed inward on their hind limbs. Though this term may also be used to describe a similar condition in the front limbs, it usually describes cattle that are farther apart at the hocks than at their hooves. This condition is considered more serious in terms of inhibiting proper mobility and is far less common in comparison to the cow-hocked condition.

Read here to learn more about beef conformation basics.

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

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.