As fall calving begins, the North American Limousin Foundation (NALF) encourages its members to score their cows' teat sizes and udder suspensions so the data can help guide future selection decisions.
The Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) adopted standardized guidelines for teat and udder scoring last year. The system requires a separate score for each, both on 9-point scales. Breeders should evaluate their cows within 24 hours after calving, and NALF has illustrations available to help them assign scores. Refer to the "Genetic Evaluation” section of the association's Web site.
Teat scores range from 9 (very small) to 1 (very large and balloon-shaped). They are subjective assessments of teat length and circumference. In general, smaller teat sizes are more desirable. Oversized teats are difficult for newborn calves to nurse, depriving them of adequate colostrum.
Udder scores range from 9 (very tight) to 1 (very pendulous). They represent assessments of udder support. Weak udder suspension results in pendulous udders that make it difficult for a calf to nurse. It also indicates a weak supporting ligament, which might subject the udder to increased injury.
"Teats and udders can affect calf performance and cow longevity so more emphasis is being placed on monitoring them,” says Lauren Hyde, director of performance programs for NALF, who chaired the BIF committee that proposed the new scoring system.
She says NALF plans to use udder and teat scores in genetic evaluation once members submit a sufficient number of records. The association's new animal-registry system, anticipated by early 2009, will allow for electronic submission and archiving of such information.
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