Dairy farmers willing to increase their milking herd have to be careful. It is important to choose healthy, strong cows, which can produce more milk over a longer period of time. When doing this, concentrate on observable features that will allow you to judge it. For instance: Look for cows with deep, long body with wide, well-sprung ribs and with angular body shape. Such large body capacity has ample space for the rumen and digestive system. In this article, we educate you about conformation traits that enable you to choose a good cow.
Conformation traits farmers should go for while selecting dairy cows
It is the aim of every dairy farmer to breed healthy and productive cows. Animals that produce high yields over many lactations (milking period) easily are the most sought after. While bull selection for dairy breeding remains a challenge to dairy farmers in Kenya, bull selection is only part of the equation. Cows features also determine what kind of bull is the right one to serve your cow. Many farmers choose the semen for their cows based primarily on the price of the semen. As such, they end up choosing the wrong bull for their cows and also their farming system. This article is a continuation of the terms and features contained in the Bull Catalogues and sire summaries.
Road map for breeders
Linear Type Scoring is a classification that describes the conformation of an animal biologically on a scale of 1-9. It is the road map for the breeder and dairy farmer in deciding on his sire selection as to the type of animal that suits his farming system.
The ideal cow
A strong dairy cow with a wedge-shaped rump (back side of a cow), in top as well as in side view, and with a slightly sloped rump angle; stature depends on breed; a square, high quality and well attached udder with close front teat placement and strong suspensory ligament; excellent use of legs and feet.
What traits to look for
Chest width: Measured from the inside surface between the top of the front
legs. Wide – 9, Average – 5, Narrow – 1.
Stature: measured in inches from the top of the spine in between hips to the ground. A score of 9 is considered tall, 5 is an average and 1 is short.
Body depth: Distance between top of spine and bottom of barrel at last rib. Deep – 9, Average, Shallow – 1.
Rump width: The distance between the most posterior point of pin bones. 1 – narrow; 5 – average, 9 – wide.
Rear legs side view: Angle measured at the front of the hock. Straight or sickled legs are not appreciated. 1 – extremely straight; 5 – slightly set to hock; 9 – too sickled.
Foot angle: Angle at the front of the rear hoof measured from the floor to the hairline of the right foot. 1 – very low angle; 5 – intermediate angle; 9 – very steep angle.
Rear legs rear view: Direction of the rear feet when viewed from the rear. 1 – extremely toe out that lacks mobility; 5 – slightly toe out; 9 – parallel feet.
Central ligament: The depth of cleft at the base of the rear udder. Ligaments should be clearly visible and continue high upwards. 1 – convex to flat floor with broken ligament; 5 – intermediate; 9 – deep cleft/strong ligament.
Angularity: This is also called dairy form. It refers to the angle and spring of the ribs, though it is not a true linear trait. A scale of 9 – is very angular with open ribbed flat bone; 5 – average; 1- lacks angularity, with close ribs and course bone.
Pelvic angle: Is the slope from hip to pin bones. It is measured as the angle of the rump structure from hips to pins. Generally, the pins should be slightly lower than the hips. 1- high pins; 5 – average; 9 – extreme slope.
Fore udder attachment: The strength of the attachment of fore udder to the abdominal wall. The udder should continue well forwards. 1 – weak and loose; 5 – intermediate strength; 9 – very strong and tight.
Front teat placement: The position of the front teat from the center of the quarter as viewed from the rear. 1 – outside of quarter; 5 – centrally placed; 9 – extremely close towards the inside of the quarter.
Udder depth: The distance from the lowest part of the udder flock to the hock. 1 – deep; 5 – intermediate; 9 – shallow.
Rear udder height: The distance between the bottom of the vulva and the milk secreting tissue, in relation to the height of the animal. 1 – low; intermediate; 9 – high.
Rear udder width: Width of the udder at the point where the milk secretion tissue is attached. 1 – narrow; 5 – intermediate; 9 – wide.
Teat length: The length of the front teat. 1 – short; 5 – intermediate; 9 – long.
Movement: The use of legs and feet, length and the direction of the step. 1 – severe abduction/short strides; 5 – slight abduction/medium stride; 9 – no abduction/long stride.
Source: International Type Evaluation of Dairy Cattle (2005). World Holstein Friesian Federation, Paris