Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Udder Talk

Q:  How can you tell you've been looking at too many photos of cows' udders?

A:  When you're out for lunch with your adult daughter who shows you a funny-looking grape that's indented like the top of a hot cross bun . . . and you say, "Wow!  Look at those great suspensory ligaments on that grape!"

You must be thinking, "That is udderly pathetic!"  Or then again, if you're at all like me, "Did you take a photo of that grape?  I'd like to see it!"

I am really interested in slightly obsessed with udders right now.  I want to learn how to tell a good udder from a bad udder and both from a great udder.  I want to be able to knowledgeably critique the udders on my own cows.  Here, by the way, is some udder anatomy and here is a guide to udder and teat scoring on beef cattle.

First I will post photos and tell you what (I think) I know about my cow's udder during her first lactation, five months along.  Then I will submit these photos to be critiqued on some of the Dexter cattle boards I belong to.  I'd like to see what the experts have to say.  (Although I guess if they are milking experts, I should call them "exspurts?")  Once I hear their opinions, I'll update this post to include them.

Left side, before milking.
 Here's what I think:

  • The front quarter is considerably smaller than the rear.  The attachment is too "straight up;" it should attach farther forward on the belly.  
  • Ideally the floor of the udder should be more level, with the front quarter being more equal to the rear. 
  • I'm wondering if the way the rear teat is "ballooning" close to the udder is normal or could it signify a future problem?
  • There is a lot of definition between the quarters.  Is this good or bad?  I couldn't find a mention of it anywhere.
  • The rear quarter is also attached too obliquely.  It should attach farther up toward the vulva in the rear.  (See last photo.)

A different shot from the left side, before milking
More of my thoughts:
  • This again shows the distinct separation between the quarters. 
  • The teats are spaced far enough apart to allow for hand milking.
  • The udder is carried well above her hocks.

The right side, before milking
My thoughts:

  • The rear teat seems to be slightly less ballooned at the top than the opposite one.
  • Both teats are possibly a little shorter than the ones on the other side, however, all are long enough for hand milking with three fingers.

The left side, after milking 1 1/2 qts.
Here are my thoughts:

  • The teats are now revealed to be fairly equal in size, although the rear one is shorter.
  • The udder floor is more level.  Obviously the rear quarters are filling much more with milk.
  • I easily get twice the milk from each rear quarter that I get from the front quarters.  Is this normal?

The right side, after milking 1 1/2 qts.
Here are my thoughts:

  • This photo reveals a tiny "pouchy" area that I've noticed next to the rear teat on this side.  You can see it silhouetted against the gray bucket in the background.  I have noticed that as I milk out that quarter, this bit of skin feels loose.  Is this a problem developing? 

Arrow showing where the median suspensory ligament attaches
Here are my final thoughts:

  • The median suspensory ligament should be attached closer to the vulva, if I understand correctly.  I've put a red arrow to show where I believe it attaches, although the long winter coat interferes a bit.   
Okay, Experts, tell me what you think!


  1. You are correct about her fore-attachment needing to be further forward, the rear attachment further up, and the floor more level. (I would have hoped that Red Wing would improve things more for you there!)
    Her teats look fairly decent, though with better attachments fore & rear, ideally the teats would be spaced a bit farther apart.
    You want good definition along the median suspensory ligament, which she seems to have, but not as much "division" between front & rear quarters (though there is normally some definition there).
    It is normal for the rear quarters to produce a bit more than the fronts...but it shouldn't be twice the amount.

    1. Thank you SO much for the input, Kim! I can read every article that's written, but what's really helpful is when someone helps me apply it specifically to my cow! BTW, Royal's dam classified with maximum points for her udder conformation, so maybe he can do for Siobhan's offspring what Red Wing didn't quite do for her.


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