VVV Episode 8: Age Verification in Cattle

Dr. Jelinski shows us an easy way to estimate the age range of cattle by examining dentition.


Ruminants are unique to other species in that they do not have a top row of incisor and canine teeth, but instead a dental pad used for grinding rough forages. When examining dentition to determine age, we examine only the bottom incisors and canines teeth, as they each have distinct times that they erupt. Just like humans, calves have a set of smaller, temporary “baby teeth” or milk teeth that are present within the first month of life. This set of baby teeth ┬áconsists of 6 incisors and 2 canines. As a guideline, aging cattle by dentition is split into 3 general categories. If a cow has a full set of temporary teeth, we can classify them as less than 24 months of age. The middle 2 permanent incisors, known as the central incisors, are the first to appear and will erupt between 24-30 months of age. The next set of incisors lateral to the centrals will erupt roughly after 30 months of age.

Why age verify?

The CCIA is now requesting that birth dates be entered into their Canadian Livestock Tracking System for every calf tagged with the mandatory RFID button tag. Knowing the exact age of an animal helps to improve disease surveillance, traceability, and maintain global market access for our cattle and beef products. Not to mention, age verifying cattle at the feedlot will help to reduce the over-age discounts at the packing plant– as much as $0.20 on the pound!