April 24, 2019

Interpretive Summary: Effect of cow udder score on cow/calf performance in the Nebraska Sandhills

Interpretive Summary: The effect of cow udder score on cow/calf performance in the Nebraska Sandhills

By: Dr. Emily Taylor

Optimizing production and maximizing profitability is an overall goal for all beef producers, and it is necessary to evaluate challenges that pose a negative impact on this goal. Researchers at the University of Nebraska addressed udder conformation and its potential for a reduction in cow/calf performance. Specifically, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of beef cow udder score on cow performance and pre- and post-weaning progeny performance.

A 5-year retrospective study was conducted using crossbred cows at the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory. Animals were assigned an udder score (1 to 5) each year at calving, and were further classified as having either a low udder score (LUS; udder score 1 or 2) or a high udder score (HUS; score 3 or 4).

Cow performance was not negatively impacted by udder score in the current study, which is similar to past research suggesting cow udder size and shape have no relationship with cow longevity. Udder conformation is considered a functional trait and has previously been hypothesized to negatively impact growth performance of the offspring due to limiting the ability of a calf to suckle. However, this study is in agreement with previous research suggesting that calf growth is not impacted by udder, more specifically teat, conformation. Although calf growth performance prior to entering the feedlot was similar, calves suckling HUS dams had greater HCW and backfat thickness. Yield grade also tended to increase in calves from the HUS dams.  

This study has indicated that culling animals due to a low udder score may not be in the best interest of the producer. Especially, if the calf is not having an issue with suckling.

To view the full article, visit Translational Animal Science