Homesteader's Guide to Farm Animal Dentistry: Estimating Age by Reading Teeth

Proper mastication is important to the livestock's overall health and productiveness. The degree of development and the potential remaining usefulness of the creature being considered for purchase are often directly reflected by the animal's teeth. Dr. Ho

| May/June 1973

  • 021-069-01
    Two views of a horse's teeth, which are predominately incisors, premolars, and molars.
    ILLUSTRATION: KIM ZARNEY
  • 021-071-01_01
    Views of a cow's teeth and horse's teeth. Note the longitudinal view revealing the composition of horse teeth and cross the section revealing how horse teeth change in appearance as they wear over time.
    KIM ZARNEY

  • 021-069-01
  • 021-071-01_01

The question which is probably most frequently asked before an animal changes ownership is, "How old is he (or she)?" The actual age—within broad limits—of the cow or whatever, of course, is really not as important as that query might imply. What is important is the degree of development and the potential remaining usefulness of the creature being considered for purchase . . . and both these conditions are often directly reflected by the animal's teeth.

To be productive, a farm animal—say a cow—must consume large quantities of feed . . . a task that becomes increasingly difficult—even impossible—as her teeth become badly worn or missing. Thus, even a "young" cow can be non-productive if her teeth are "old".

Animal Teeth Are Like People Teeth

With certain exceptions—to be noted later—the dental appendages of animals are very similar to those of humans. All the higher vertebrates—cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, etc.—commonly found in the barnyard have two sets of teeth. The first—called temporary, milk, or deciduous teeth—are replaced (at fairly predictable times) by permanent teeth as an animal grows older.

Livestock also exhibit individual tooth structure—pulp, dentine, enamel, and cement—very much like our own. In most cases, each tooth is divided into parts called the root (hidden in the gums) and the crown (exposed and covered with enamel). The place at which the root and crown join is commonly known as the neck of a tooth.



The Dental Formula

Animal teeth are classified as incisors, canines, premolars, and molars . . . and veterinary anatomists have a very concise method of writing this information in a "dental formula".

The dental formula for an adult male horse looks like this:






Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters