Carney Family Farms field day will explore ultrasound for grass-finishing cattle

For Release: September 15, 2016

MAXWELL, Iowa — For grass-based cattle producers, and especially those who finish their animals on forage, ultrasound technology can be a valuable tool for herd management. Not only can it help farmers track their animals’ performance on a grass-based diet, it can help them decide the optimal harvest window and refine their herd’s genetics. Bruce Carney and his family raise grass-finished cattle at Carney Family Farms near Maxwell, and have been using ultrasound for the past three years for all these reasons.

“With ultrasound we can tell whether our cattle are really finished when we think they are,” Bruce says. “We can also learn which animals will finish on forage and which ones will not. I’ve used it to pull lower-quality animal out of the grass-finishing segment, and we use them in our non-GMO grain-finishing where more fat and marbling is added for a better end product. I have also used it for selection of the new breeding stock.”

The Carneys are hosting a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day on the topic – the first of a two-part series – on Wednesday, Sept. 28, from 1-5 p.m., at their farm near Maxwell (13602 NE 96th St., about 6 miles south of town), and invite farmers and the public to learn from their experience. The event – “Using Ultrasound as a Tool in Grass-Finishing Cattle” – is free to attend and will include snacks and refreshments at 3 p.m.

Attendees will get to observe grass-fed cattle two weeks before they are harvested at a local locker. The animals will have been ultrasounded twice, as yearlings and mature cattle, to help determine marbling, rib eye area and backfat within their carcasses. Guests will get to visually inspect these cattle for finish and compare observations to the ultrasound data.

Discussion will focus on grazing management, forage quality for grass-finishing, what role cattle genetics play in grass-based production, and how ultrasound scans can help producers determine the optimal harvest window for grass-finished cattle. In addition to the Carneys, cattle geneticist and retired veterinarian Jim West will share insights on cattle genetics and ultrasound data.

The second field day of the series – “Grading Grass-Finished Carcasses for Meat Quality” – will take place on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Mingo Locker, where guests will inspect the carcasses of the same animals. Guests are welcome to attend one or both events.

Carney Family Farms include 125 cow-calf pairs; a grass-finishing operation; and direct-marketing of beef, pork and chicken.

Directions from I-35: Take Exit 96 toward Elkhart / Polk City, and turn east onto NE 126th Avenue toward Elkhart. Go 5.6 miles, through Elkhart and to a T-intersection; turn left onto NE 72nd Street / NE Yoder Drive. Follow the curves in the road for about 1 mile; the road turns into NE 134th Avenue. Go 2.4 miles and turn left (north) onto NE 96th Street; look for the first house on the west side of the road. Note: The Carneys suggest using GPS, making the farm easy to find.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2016 field day season features 25 events around Iowa. All field days occur rain or shine, and feature farmer-led discussions and farm or field tours. Details are in Practical Farmers’ “2016 Field Day Guide,” available at, or for free in print.

Practical Farmers’ 2016 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Organic & Natural Meats; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); Iowa Cover Crop; Iowa Environmental Council; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; ISU Extension and Outreach; ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Defense Council; North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; RIMOL Greenhouse Systems; Riverside Feeds, LLC; Soil First; The Yield Lab; Trees Forever; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; Welter Seed & Honey Co.; and Willcross Soybeans.



Bruce Carney | Carney Family Farms | (515) 202-7326 | |

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |


Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit