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How Old is that Cow?

July 2, 2013

Without a record of birth, cattle producers often turn to oral examination to estimate the age of cattle.  Cattle are aged by examining the eruption and decay of permanent incisors  As cattle age, tooth decay and loss can affect cow well-being.  Cattle producers should examine the teeth of older females and females that do not maintain body condition as well as they have in the past.  While estimating age to within a year or two can be difficult with mature cows, recognition of acceptable and unacceptable degrees of tooth wear is easy and can be a valuable culling tool.  They following chart and video demonstrate the eruption and decay of permanent incisors for aging beef cattle.

Aging Beef Cattle Based on Incisor Eruption and Wear

Approx. Age

Description
of Teeth

Birth

Usually only 1 pair of middle incisors.

One month

All eight, temporary incisors.

1 ½ to 2 yrs

First pair of permanent (middle Incisors).

2 ½ to 3 yrs

Second pair of permanent incisors.

3 ¼ to 4 yrs

Third pair of permanent incisors.

4 to 4 ½ yrs

Fourth (corner) pair of permanent incisors

5 to 6 yrs

Middle pair of incisors begins to level off from wear. Corner teeth may also show some wear.

7 to 8 yrs

Both middle and second pair of incisors show wear.

8 to 9 yrs

Middle, second and third pair of incisors show wear.

10 yrs and over

All eight incisors show wear.

Source: Taylor, R.E. 1984. Beef Production and the Beef
Industry. Macmillan Publishing Company. New York, New York.

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