By Keaton Dodd
Anybody with long term experience in the cattle business has experienced the detrimental effects of poor udder quality. Nothing can be more frustrating than trying to get a newborn Brahman calf nursing and battling oversized teats or poor udder suspension. Mother nature has made it challenging enough to get a calf born, up, and nursing without having to struggle with a low functioning mammary system when we shouldn’t have to.
For starters, a large portion of ranchers in today’s beef industry also support themselves with a job in town. These producers do not have the ability to baby sit their cattle 24/7. It is because of this, that seedstock producers must understand the importance of convenience trait based selection to help our customers be more successful and improve their quality of life.
The only way to truly improve udder quality within a functioning beef herd is through genetic selection. By keeping accurate records and rigorous culling we are able to eliminate inferior animals from the breeding herd as well as improve the udder quality as an average over the entire herd. It has been suggested that udder characteristics have a heritability somewhere between .15 and .30, with Brahman cattle showing up on the higher end of that heritability estimate. Although these heritability estimates would typically be described as mid to lowly heritable, we can still make massive improvements across a broad spectrum of the industry with proper application of udder assessments.
The Beef Improvement Federation has adapted a scoring system to assist producers in the proper selection of females that have more ideal teat size and udder suspension. This value should be taken 24 to 48 hours after calving, recorded, and submitted to the breed association of choice.
Understanding the Scoring
To understand the system, we must consider that two values are necessary to come up with an assessment of the udder of a cow.
The first value is an udder suspension score. Attached below is a diagram showing images relating to each described suspension score as well as a description of the values given by the beef improvement federation. The more desirable is an udder tight to the body with a strong suspensory ligament, and as the udder starts to descend further from the body that value given to score that particular female will decrease. An udder tightly suspended allows for the calf to more easily locate the desired teat and begin nursing.
The other number of importance when considering overall udder quality is the teat size score. This particular value takes into account the circumference as well as length of an individual’s teats. We find it more desirable to have teats that are small in size, central in placement, and more symmetrically aligned.
Practical Application of Teat and Udder Scores
By applying scores to all of your breeding females, it not only allows for proper selection and culling, but also can be used by a breed association to compile an individual’s data with their ancestral data to compile enough info to generate an EPD value to aid in future selection. For example, the Hereford Association identified udder quality as one of the struggles amongst their breed and quickly rose to the industry forefront for udder improvement by creating two EPD’s: TEAT and UDDR.
As breeders, if we are able to compile enough information through accurate data collection and submit that to the ABBA, we can help the association with their goal of assembling a breed wide EPD that benefits both us as the breeder as well as improve genetics for customers on a global level.
How BRC Can Help
Here at B.R. Cutrer incorporated, we are committed to offering our customers the most functionally efficient genetics possible. It is because of this that we refuse to sell a bull with a bad bagged cow in his pedigree. Nor will we offer a bull with a bad-bagged cow as an AI sire.
One of the biggest compliments we receive as a seedstock producer is when a long-time customer describes how pleased they are with the daughters they have in sired by a bull purchased from the ranch.
Generating functional cattle with udder quality is a process that takes generations of work but is something we take pride in and are committed to as a Brahman genetic supplier.
Whether you purchase a cow, bull, or even a straw of semen from BRC, you can rest assured that the genetics we represent are backed by generations of strong cow families with superior udder quality and longevity. In closing, we will continue to record and submit data on the teat and udders of all of our females to ensure customer success for year to come.
For more information on B.R. Cutrer’s breeding program and commitment to customer satisfaction, visit our website at https://brcutrer.com/about-brc/.