the age of cattle
by the teeth
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
University of Florida, Gainesville
DETERMINING THE AGE OF
CATTLE BY THE TEETH
by J. E. PACE
During recent years there has been increased
interest in showing steers in Florida youth shows
by age groups rather than by weight groups.
It is often difficult for an exhibitor to learn
the exact birth date of calves produced in com-
mercial herds. It is also possible that a calf has
changed hands several times before being pur-
chased by the prospective exhibitor. An ability
to determine approximate age by dental examina-
tion is definitely an asset. The proof of age should
rest with the exhibitor in any case of doubt.
For years cattlemen have examined the teeth
of cattle as a means of general age determina-
tion. This knowledge is a valuable asset to the
cattleman, especially when purchasing commer-
Differences in the teeth exist among individual
cattle and herds. Factors such as nutritional
background, inheritance and geographical location
account for these differences. Despite individual
differences, when the age of an animal is not
known, examination of the teeth serves as the
best method of age determination.
Cattle have eight incisors or biting teeth. They
are located in the lower jaw. The incisor teeth
meet with the dental pad of the upper jaw. Ru-
minants do not have upper incisors.
Calves may be born with or without teeth;
however, by the end of the first month after birth
all eight temporary incisors, or "baby" teeth,
have appeared. Temporary incisors or "il.y"
teeth are much smaller than the permanent in-
Incisors Are Identified As Follows:
The middle pair are identified as the cen-
The pair next to the middle incisors are
identified as the middle incisors.
The pair next to the middle incisors are
designated as the lateral incisors.
The pair next to the laterals are known as
the corner incisors.
Eruption of the first permanent incisors (cen-
tral) occurs when the animal is 19 to 20 months
of age. This eruption is a gradual process. The
temporary or "baby" teeth become loosened and
the gums are usually swollen. Quite frequently
the permanent incisors begin appearing while
the temporary teeth are still in their settings.
They usually come in at an angle, the upper out-
side corner of the tooth being higher than the
inside corner (see fig. 4).
The following drawings and descriptions should
assist cattlement and youth exhibitors in de-
termining the age of cattle. However, constant
practice and examination of a large number of
cattle of known age is necessary to establish
Age-14 months. All four pairs of teeth are
temporary and firmly in place. The teeth are
short, broad and usually have a bright ivory
color. The teeth often touch on the inside cor-
ners at the top of the teeth. Note the spreading
that is usually present between the two center
incisors. Steers with mouths similar to Figure 1
are exhibited in the younger class in Florida
Age-17 months. All teeth are temporary and
set rather loosely in the jaw, especially the two
center incisors. The teeth appear longer and
more narrow than those in Figure 1. The teeth
may or may not be touching at the upper cor-
ners. There is often a yellow or off-white dis-
coloration of the teeth near the base at the gum
line. Steers with dental structures similar to
Figure 2 are shown in the intermediate class.
Age-19 to 20 months. Note the eruption of the
first permanent incisor tooth. Both temporary in-
cisors may or may not be present when this per-
manent tooth erupts. The permanent incisors will
usually erupt at an angle and straighten into a
definite pattern with continued growth. A steer
with this tooth pattern is shown in the older class.
- 9 -
Age-21 months. Both center incisors are evi-
dent, but they may or may not be in a straight
line with the inside corners touching. These steers
are shown in the older class.
Age-23 months. The permanent center incisors
are in place and the inside corners are in line.
These steers are also shown in the older class.
The dental structure in Figure 5 is approaching
the maximum limits for eligibility to show where
dental classifications are used.
Age-28 months. The second pair of permanent
incisors have erupted but are not in wear. Steers
with mouths similar to Figure 6 are too old to
compete in Florida shows.
Premolars: 1, 2, 3 Permanent Molars
Temporary-Birth to 1 mo. 4-5 to 6 mo.
Permanent-2 to 3/2 yrs. 5-1 to 1'/2 yrs.
6-2 to 21/2 yrs.
It is difficult to use the premolars for age de-
termination, since their growth pattern is rather
erratic. The first pairs of permanent molars ap-
pear around five months of age. The center
molars appear at 12 to 18 months, and are often
used as a guide to split the younger and the
intermediate classes when there is some doubt
about the pattern of the incisors. The posterior,
or third pair of permanent molars, appear be-
tween 24 and 30 months. The third pair of molars
are often used to supplement the incisor pattern
when steers approach the maximum limits of the
The second pair of permanent incisors are in
full wear at a relatively early three years of age.
The third permanent pair of incisors erupt and
are in full wear six or seven months later. The
fourth pair (corners) erupt as the animal ap-
proaches four years, and all of the teeth are in
wear at 41/2 years of age.
Age determinations past 41/2 years are less ac-
curate and are determined by the wear on the
apex surface of the incisor teeth. The center pair
show wear at five, second pair at six, third pair
at seven and the corners at eight years of age.
Evidence of wear becomes more distinct and the
teeth obtain a triangular shape with continued
wear. It is very difficult to determine age of cattle
by examination of teeth when they are more
than eight years old.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE
AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida, Florida State
University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. 0. Watkins, Director