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Reproductive Tract Scoring

Wet lab features how to collect and use reproductive tract scores and pelvic measures in managing beef heifers.

Dave Patterson, a University of Missouri professor of animal science and Extension beef specialist, provided an overview of beef female reproductive tract scoring during the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC) Workshop hosted Aug. 29-30 in Manhattan, Kan. According to Patterson, reproductive tract scoring and pelvic measurement are tools that can contribute significantly to the success of heifer breeding programs. Yet, these tools are not used by many cattlemen.

Dave Patterson

“The scores reflect what’s going on with the endocrine system and ovarian changes that accompany the onset of puberty,” said Dave Patterson, University of Missouri Extension beef specialist. “Those changes are palpable.”

Patterson told workshop participants that heifers must reach puberty by 15 months of age if they are to conceive and calve by 24 months of age, but as many as 35% of beef heifers fail to reach puberty by this time. Therefore, the reproductive tract scoring (RTS) system was designed to estimate pubertal status, through rectal palpation of the uterine horns and ovaries. Patterson explained that sexual maturity is estimated, based on development of ovarian follicles and the size of the reproductive tract. Heifers are then numerically scored from 1 (immature) to 5 (cycling).

“The scores reflect what’s going on with the endocrine system and ovarian changes that accompany the onset of puberty,” said Patterson. “Those changes are palpable.”

Patterson recommended that producers have replacement heifer candidates palpated and scored four to six weeks prior to breeding, or two weeks prior to initiating an estrous synchronization program. He also recommended that synchronization not be initiated unless at least 50% of heifers have an RTS of 4 or 5.

“It helps determine if heifers are really ready to synch, especially purchased heifers whose management history may be unknown,” added Patterson.

When evaluating heifers visually, even savvy cow-calf producers may not realize the extent to which pelvic measurements can differ. Therefore, Patterson recommended that measurement of pelvic area be conducted at the time of pelvic examination and reproductive tract scoring. Pelvic size can then be used as a tool for screening replacement heifer candidates.

Patterson presented during Wednesday afternoon’s ARSBC wet lab focused on beef female reproductive tract scoring.

For additional coverage of the 2017 ARSBC Symposium, visit the Newsroom at The site Newsroom features comprehensive coverage of the symposium, including PowerPoints, proceedings papers and audio of the presentations. Compiled by the Angus Journal editorial team, the site is made possible through sponsorship by the Beef Reproduction Task Force. To access video of the presentations, visit the Beef Reproduction Task Force page on Facebook.

The 2017 ARSBC Symposium was hosted by the Task Force and Kansas State University Research & Extension. Next year’s symposium will be Aug. 29-30 in Ruidoso, N.M.

Editor's Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of the Angus Journal, an Angus Media publication. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270.