Advanced Technology

Real-time ultrasound represented a major breakthrough for noninvasive, objective animal evaluation. The medical equipment industry developed ultrasonic systems that had multiple elements mounted in a linear array that could generate and receive signals from each element 15 30 times per second (i.e., real-time ultrasound). Linear array transducers of lengths up to 12.5 cm contained 64 100 elements, and a complete cross-sectional image could be produced in a fraction of a second and the frozen image viewed on the cathode ray tube of the ultrasonic unit. The real-time ultrasound equipment was used in the medical field for many diagnostic applications, and it became widely used in the livestock industry for evaluation of swine[4] and sheep although the transducer was too short to produce a complete cross-sectional image of beef cattle. A special transducer standoff guide was developed for use with the 12.5-cm transducer, which permitted the production and matching of two partial images. This technology was used for evaluating beef cattle.[5] The results were often inaccurate due to animal movement or poor operator technique. In 1990, an improved realtime ultrasonic scanner with a 17.2-cm linear transducer was developed and used for beef cattle. In 1991, this system was demonstrated for evaluating fat thickness, loin muscle area, and marbling score[6] on live cattle, sheep, and swine.

Extensive reviews of the application of ultrasound for evaluation of live beef, sheep, and swine for the previous 30 years have demonstrated the extent of the previous research and the improvements that have been realized. Topics have included the application of ultrasound for feeding and finishing animals,[7] and for the selection of breeding stock[8] and the effect on genetic improvement. Ultrasound has been used for the selection of breeding hogs for more than 20 years. Images were interpreted visually by humans and measured manually with the aid of planimeters or computers. Results have shown that automation of the process for interpreting animal ultrasonic images was feasible.

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