A Cow’s Teeth Tell Her Age, and Can Help With Culling Decisions

In order to maintain condition in a pasture setting without copious amounts of supplemental feed, a cow must have a full set of teeth that have not been worn down too much. Using dentition, or the condition and wear, of the cow's teeth can be a useful tool to determine if the cow should stay in the herd for another year. The age of younger cows can be closely estimated by the number of permanent incisors present on the lower front jaw (See Table 1). The difficulty in aging a cow comes when looking at middle aged (6- to 10-year-old) cows. Rather than the number of permanent incisors that have erupted, tooth wear and degree of separation between teeth is the indicator of age in older cows. In general, a heifer younger than 18 months will only have her temporary milk or "baby" teeth. The teeth will often be loosely set in the jaw. By 18 months of age, there will be space between each tooth so that one will not touch the next. At 18 months to 2 years of age, the heifer will lose her center two milk teeth, which will be replaced with the first of the permanent incisors, called pincers. The pincers will be the middle two teeth on the front lower jaw. Then every following year, she will lose the next set of teeth beside the last permanent tooth that has erupted on each side until she reaches 5 years of age when the corner incisors fill in. From 6 years old and on, age is determined by tooth wear, separation between teeth or disappearance of teeth. The degree of wear on

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