Feeder Cattle Terminology
Understanding Feeder Cattle Terminology as it applies to Frame and Thickness when described as Large Frame
Judging and understanding feeder cattle so that you can better recognize or picture in
your mind what to expect by the descriptions you hear as; Large Frame number 1, Medium Frame number 1, Small Frame
number 1, Large Frame number 2, Medium Frame number 2, Small Frame number 2, Large Frame number 3, medium Frame
number 3 and Small Frame number 3 cattle.
The frame description as you would expect has to do with the size of the animal and the
number description has to do with the thickness of the animal.
Each of these descriptions are defined in words and shown in a picture or illustration
for easy understanding. Study these and the next time you read a market report it will make a little more sense
when you see something about 500 pound medium number ones.
Large Frame (L) – Feeder cattle in this grade are thrifty, have large frames and
are tall and long-bodied for their age. Steers would not be expected to produce the amount of external fat opposite
the twelfth rib – usually about .5 inch – normally associated with the U.S. Choice grade until their live weight
exceeds 1,200 pounds. Heifers would not be expected to produce choice carcasses until their live weight exceeds
Medium Frame (M) – Feeder cattle in this grade are thrifty, have slightly large
frames, and are slightly tall and long-bodied for their age. Steers would be expected to produce U.S. Choice
carcasses (about .5 inch fat at twelfth rib) at live weights of 1,000 to 1,200 pounds. Heifers would be expected to
produce choice carcasses at 850 to 1,000 pounds.
Small Frame (S) – Feeder cattle included in this grade are thrifty, have small
frames and are shorter bodied and not as tall as specified as the minimum for the medium frame grade. Steers would
be expected to produce U.S. Choice carcasses (about .5 inch fat) at live weights of less than 1,000 pounds. Heifers
would be expected to produce Choice carcasses at live weights of less than 850 pounds.
Number 1 Thickness
Number 1 – Feeder cattle included in this grade usually show a high proportion of
beef breeding. They must be thrifty and slightly thick throughout. They are slightly thick and full in the forearm
and gaskin, showing a rounded appearance through the back and loin with moderate width between the legs, both front
and rear. Cattle show this thickness with a slightly thin covering of fat; however, cattle eligible for this grade
may carry varying degrees of fat.
Number 2 Thickness
Number 2 – Feeder cattle that possess minimum qualifications for this grade are
thrifty and narrow through the forequarter and the middle part of the rounds. The forearm and gaskin are thin and
the back and loin have a sunken appearance. The legs are set close together, both front and rear. Cattle show this
narrowness with a slightly thin covering of fat; however, cattle eligible for this grade may carry varying degrees
Number 3 Thickness
Number 3 – Feeder cattle included in this grade are thrifty animals that have less thickness than
the minimum requirements specified for the No. 2 grade.
In addition to the above possible combinations (3 frame size, 3 muscle
thicknesses) of feeder grades for thrifty animals, there is also an inferior grade for unthrifty animals.
The inferior grade includes feeder cattle that are unthrifty because
of mismanagement, disease, parasites or lack of feed.
An animal grading inferior could qualify for a thickness and frame
size grade at a later date provided the unthrifty condition is corrected.