Heifer pelvic scoring might not be the sexiest of topics, but it can help to significantly curtail calving problems on beef farms and ultimately lead to a more productive breeding herd.

While most farmers would expect the biggest, heaviest heifers to have the largest pelvic areas, such animals can in fact have smaller pelvises which if caught before bulling can be eliminated from the breeding herd thereby reducing future problems.

"We have pelvic scored thousands of heifers pre bulling over the years, and up to one in 20, one in 30, have shown to be too small," said veterinarian Ewan Jamieson, of Meadows Veterinary Centre, Old Meldrum, Inverurie.

"We also check the ovaries of such heifers which ultimately leads to a more productive breeding herd."

By scoring the reproductive tract vets can confirm whether or not a heifer is cycling or not, and by measuring the uterine size, width, tone and ovarian structures, detect whether animals are mature enough to breed from. The process also detects immature heifers and free martins as 90-95% of heifers with a male twin have shown to be infertile.

And by only breeding from heifers with large pelvic scores, Mr Jamieson said herds benefit not only from fewer traumatic calvings, caesareans and vet bills but also cattle that are more fertile and quicker to come to the bull.

"Once farmers start pelvic scoring their heifers they keep doing it. We have farmers who have been scoring for five years and they never get a caesarian now," he said.

On average, he said the pelvic area grows 6cm2 per month from 12-22months of age or 6cm2 per 10kg liveweight from 350-550kg, although, there are huge ranges between the top and bottom percentages.

"A light two-year-old heifer can have a smaller pelvic area than a heavy yearling heifer, as pelvic size is more related to weight than age, but you can also get a massive heifer with a tiny pelvis. There can be up to 140cm2 difference between the biggest and smallest pelvises," commented Mr Jamieson, who also advised producers to consider the bull being used on such animals.

In general, he said there are several breeds that genetically have larger pelvises than others, to include the Salers and the Shorthorn, with the more muscly breeds likely to have smaller pelvises. However, a lot depends on the bull and the breed of bull being used when it comes to calving ease.