Livestock Research for Rural Development 25 (3) 2013 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Building a low cost instrument for measurement of important morphological measures for animal production

Priscila Silva Oliveira, Marina de Nadai Bonin, Diego de Córdoba Cucco, Joanir Pereira Eler and José Bento Sterman Ferraz

Universidade de São Paulo, Faculdade de Zootecnia e Engenharia de Alimentos,
Av. Duque de Caxias Norte, 225 - Campus da USP - CEP 13635-900 - Pirassununga/SP


The development of an efficient, low cost animal measurement equipment for morphological measurements is presented in this paper.

The equipment, similar to a hippometer, is easily handled for measurement of traits of economic importance for breeding programs of cattle, goats, sheep, pigs or other species. Measurements as height, width and length can be taken with the equipment. The material used is composed of  PVC plumbing pipes for cold water that can be found in any house plumbing or construction material store, worldwide. It’s easy to adapt the building plan presented in this paper to larger or smaller scale, so the equipment can be adapted for larger or smaller animals or species. The equipment is easy to set up, light weight, easy to repair, robust and cost effective and it can become a tool that can help scientists, animal breeders and farmers measuring animals for any purpose. 

Key words: height, width, length the croup


Morphological measurements performed in animals are important tools in the assessment of growth characteristics and body development for breeding programs, because with the direct use of these or other correlated traits, researchers aim to detect genetically superior animals which may be selected to be parents of the next generation. According to Pinheiro et al (2007), although morphological measurements alone are not sufficient to characterize the carcasses, combinations of these settings and allow better adjustments and comparisons between animals. As an example, the widths between ileums and hamstrings are important measures of the conformation of cattle, sheep and goats, and are related to the ease or difficulty in calving. The measures of udder morphology, such as height and rear udder width, also have great weight in the assessment of the productive capacity of dairy cattle.

Methods of measurements are often accompanied by a margin of error. Some of these errors are due to the measurement device, the technique used or the variance between individuals responsible for measuring the characteristics of concern, but also in large part to the size of the sample. However, even if the sample size is not considered ideal, the development of efficient equipment and easy measurement is crucial to ensure standardization and consistency of measurements by reducing sampling errors.

The caliper and hippometer of two bars are popular measuring instruments that consist in a graduated scale associated to two bearings of measurement, a straight end and fixed to the other cursor, with a minimum of slack, slip on the graduate rule allowing  the measurement of the distance between two defined points.

Many works have been conducted in the field of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science in using such equipments, such as the evaluation of the thickness of subcutaneous fat in beef cattle (Andrighetto et al 2009), the measurement of length, width and height of the chorioallantoic membranes and amniotic fluid in cattle (Assis Neto 2009), in measuring the length and width of testis in cattle (Forni and Albuquerque 2004) and finally the measurement of chest depth, height, width and length of the croup in cattle (Bonin et al 2010).

According to Northcutt et al (1992) measurements as body height and length are more accurate in determining the size of the maturity than the weight, since this may introduce periodic fluctuations depending on the nutritional state.

In cattle, the measurements of live animals are essential to evaluate their performances in selection programs. Besides being heritable these favorable characteristics and have high correlations with the production of animals. In a study on carcass traits in Nellore, conducted by Bonin et al (2010), the values ​​of heritability coefficients and genetic and phenotypic correlations between the traits height, width and length of croup with weight and rib eye area (REA), the latter measured by ultrasonography, were highly relevant (Table 1). According to these authors the correlation between measures of croup and REA is beneficial and of great relevance, since there is a high correlation with the measures of REA and prime cuts of the carcass.

Table 1.  Genetic parameters for rib eye area (REA), body weight (BW) and height (Height), length (Length) and width (Width) of croup in Nellore.




















































* Heritability in bold face, standard error of estimates between parentheses, genetic correlation above diagonal, phenotypic correlation below diagonal. Adapted from Bonin et al (2010).


Materials and Methods


The plumbing material is PVC for cold water that can be found in any plumbing or home building material store around the world. For the construction of this device the following material will be necessary:

Photo 1: PVC pipes, diameters
20, 25 and 32 mm

Photo 2: Reduction PVC tees 32 x 25 mm
and PVC tee 25 mm

Photo 3: PVC reduction nipple
25 x 20 mm

Photo 4: Plastic adhesive

Photo 5: PVC blade saw

Photo 6: Sandpaper #100

Photo 7: 1.5 m metric tape

Photo 8: Transparent adhesive
tape 45 mm


The assembling steps are as follows:  

1st step: The 32 mm PVC pipe is separated in 2 parts – 1 of 36 cm, sanded with the sandpaper at one end, and the other of 6 cm, sanded in both ends (Photo 9)

 Photo 9: Pieces of the 32 mm PVC pipe, already cut and sanded.

Important: all ends of PVC pipes and PVC connections that are to be coupled must be adequately abraded to assure a tight fit and adhesion when bonded with adhesive  plastic. 

2nd step: The 20 mm PVC pipe is divided in 4 parts, 2 of them with 13 cm of length and the other 2 with 26 cm each. All of those 4 pieces must be sanded at only one end (Photo 10).

 Photo 10: The 4 pieces of 20 mm PVC pipes from 2nd step.

3rd step: 2 PVC reduction nipples 25 x 20 mm must be bonded in ends 1 and 2 of a 25 mm PVC tee, for fitting the pieces from step 2, with the 26 cm PVC piece going to end 1 and the 13 cm to end 2. To the end 3 of the PVC tee the 120 cm 25 mm PVC pipe must be bonded. (Photo 11).

 Photo 11: PVC pipes mounted on a PVC tee 

4th step: One short 25 x 20 reduction nipple must be bonded to  end 3 of a 32 x 25 mm PVC reduction tee to fit the other 26 cm 20 mm PVC pipe from step 2. In the  end 1 of the same tee should receive the 6 cm piece of PVC pipe from step 1 (Photo 12).

 Photo 12: The pieces from step 4, aligned before bonding.

5th step: The last PVC 25 x 20 mm reduction nipple must be bonded to  end 3 of another reduction 32 x 25 mm PVC tee to fit to the 13 cm piece obtained from step 2. In the  end 1 of the same tee, the 36 cm piece from step 1 will be assembled. (Photo 13). The  end 2 of the tee will fit the other end of the 6 cm piece, already joined to other pieces, as described in step 4 (Photo 14), what is going to be the cursor.

Photo 13:  PVC pipes and connectors of step 5, aligned before bonding.

Photo 14: Cursor already assembled.

6th step: The 25 mm PVC pipe assembled at step 3 is attached to the  end of the cursor so that the cursor can run smoothly over the 25 mm pipe.

The calibration of the device is made measuring a known distance. After that, the metric tape is cut at the 75 cm mark and, using transparent adhesive tape, fixed on the measurement ruler (PVC 25 mm pipe), previously assembled as shown in step 3 (Photo 15).

The device, ready to be used in shown in photo 16.

Photo 15: Scaled ruler already calibrated and the two measuring guides,
one fixed and the other attached to the cursor.

Photo 16: The device ready to be used, with minimum slips off the graduated ruler, allowing to
perform the measuring of the distance between two opposite sides.

Using the device

Figure 1 shows the device being used for different morphometric measures of bovines. With very simple modifications of the scale, this equipment can be adapted to larger or smaller animal species. At the Animal Breeding and Biotechnology Group at the College of Animal Science and Food Technology of the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, this device was already used measuring more than 2,500 beef animals, besides hundreds of sheep.

Figure 1: Different measurements of beef animals taken with the device.



Andrighetto C, Araújo L C A, Cardassi M R, Santos J, Lupatini G C  and Fonseca R 2009 Características de carcaça de bovinos da raça Nelore suplementados durante o período seco com sal proteinado e concentrado. In: Anais do V Simpósio de Ciências da UNESP-Dracena, Brazil, September 22-24.  

Assis Neto, A C, Morceli J A B, Fonseca R, Ambrósio C E, Pereira F T V and Miglino M A 2009 Evolução morfométrica dos anexos embrionários e fetais bovinos obtidos por monta natural, com 10 a 70 dias da gestação. Pesquisa Veterinária Brasileira, (29):859-862.  

Bonin M N, Ferraz J B S, Silva S L, Gomes R C, Cucco D C, Silva Neto P Z, Santana Junior M L, Eler J P, Mattos E C, Pedrosa V B, Oliveira P S and Groeneveld E 2010 Genetic parameters for body measurement and ultrasound carcass traits in Nellore cattle. In: 9th World Congress on Genetic Applied to Livestock Production. Leipzig, Germany, August 1-6.  

Forni S and Albuquerque L G 2004 Avaliação de características biométricas de testículos de bovinos Nelore. In: V Simpósio da Sociedade Brasileira de Melhoramento Animal, Pirassununga, Brazil, July 8-9. 

Northcutt S L, Wilson D E and Willham R L 1992 Adjusting weight for body condition score in Angus cows. Journal of Animal Science, (70):1342-1345. 

Pinheiro R S B, Silva Sobrinho A G, Marques C A T and Yamamoto S M 2007 Biometría  in vivo e da carcaça de cordeiros confinados. Archivos de Zootecnia (56): 955-958.

Received 10 January 2013; Accepted 16 February 2013; Published 1 March 2013

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