October 1, 2023


Elegant Food

Weekly genetics evaluation: Bottle teats – Can choice and genetics be used extra successfully?

6 min read

Editor’s observe: A very sturdy reader response to this January article Enlarged ‘bottle teats’ discovered to be main supply of calf loss in northern Australia, has prompted this examination of the issue, from a genetics and choice perspective.


BOTTLE teats teats – the results of a number of teats changing into enlarged throughout lactation – aren’t a brand new subject for beef producers in northern and southern Australia.

There are a number of elements that may contribute to bottle teats. The key trigger is because of a breakdown within the elasticity of the person teat.

Bottle teats have been discovered as a serious supply of calf loss on northern beef herds.

As a cow approaches calving and begins to develop colostrum, every quarter will begin to fill.  The stress of this early milk causes the teat to stretch, and if it has been weakened or has the potential to stretch it’ll enhance, making the teat bigger and harder for a calf to suckle from as soon as it’s born.

As soon as a bottle teat has fashioned, it won’t appropriate itself and can stay that manner throughout lactation.

After lactation has ceased, the teat takes on a extra regular look, which regularly escapes discover when producers are taking a look at cows. Nonetheless, having as soon as fashioned as a bottle teat, in subsequent lactations this subject will once more reappear.

As soon as a bottle teat has occurred it’ll at all times be a bottle teat.

Whereas older cows are typically bodily extra predisposed to growing bottle teats, as a result of lack of elasticity of the udder and udder tissue, heifers aren’t immune of their second lactations.  It has been discovered that the common incidence of bottle teats throughout herds can common three %. Nonetheless this may be damaged down by age lessons, with 0pc on first calving to 7pc in cows calving at eight years of age.

The Calf Watch challenge performed within the Northern Territory (reported earlier this yr in Beef Central) strengthened the affect bottle teats can have on calf numbers inside herds. The Calf Watch program recognized losses of 5-6pc of all pregnancies on account of bottle teats.

Earlier work printed within the Calf Alive Symposium on analysis performed by Drs Geoff Fordyce, Michael McGowan, Kieran McCosker, and the late Brian Burns, examined the causes of reproductive wastage in extensively managed beef cattle applications.

As a contributing issue to calf loss, or reproductive wastage, bottle teats elevated the chance of calf loss by 20pc.

The lack of a calf to suckle and obtain enough milk shouldn’t be underestimated. The Calf Alive report highlighted the affect temperatures can have on calves which don’t suckle.  In common temperatures, non-suckle calves lose about 7pc of their weight per day. That is the equal of round 2.5 litres of milk a day.

At temperatures of round 40 levels C, calves can lose as much as 15pc of their weight in a day, needing to devour round 5 litres of milk a day.

For cows with no points related to teat form, their capacity to realize this stage of manufacturing is already a big problem, significantly if they’re low in physique situation, or present process durations of dietary stress.  Within the case of a cow with a bottle teat, low physique situation or in dietary stress, the chance to calf survival is appreciable.

Growing incidence

The current seasonal break in lots of areas, coinciding with calving has seen many producers observe a rise within the incidence of bottle teats inside their herds. This has been famous in a number of the reader suggestions on earlier Beef Central articles.

It’s potential that improved diet permits cows to specific their capacity to lactate extra totally.  This extra enhance in milk locations stress on teats and tissues throughout the udder, inflicting the stretching and growth of a bottle teat. As famous above, as soon as fashioned the bottle teat will happen throughout subsequent lactations.

Drawback frequent throughout breeds

By means of the continued focus of tasks equivalent to Calf Watch and Calf Alive, bottle teats are sometimes on the forefront of many northern producers’ ideas throughout calving. Nonetheless southern herds aren’t immune from the identical subject.

Whereas some producers supply anecdotal observations of some breeds being extra prone to bottle teats than others, there isn’t any proof for this. Analysis performed throughout tasks together with the CRC for Beef Cattle, and herds monitored within the Money-Cow challenge reveals no distinction in breeds when evaluation teat or udder scores.


Nonetheless, inside breeds there may be some appreciable variations. As a trait, teat form has a excessive diploma of heritability, from 30-40pc. This implies that herds the place the trait has been actively recognized and chosen in opposition to are inclined to see a lot much less incidences of bottle teats.

Whereas specializing in teat form is a key consideration, it is vital to not overlook udder dimension as a further contributing think about each predisposing animals to bottle teats and to calf mortality generally. Very massive udders can even contribute to calf mortality, with some analysis suggesting mortalities related to very massive udders to extend by as much as 5pc.

Ideally udders ought to produce enough milk from the smallest quantity of mammary tissue. As udders enhance in dimension, their general sturdiness decreases, growing the chance of tissue breakdown, and growing the chance of mastitis.  Mastitis can even contribute to the event of bottle teats.

Giant Udder (Rating 5) throughout lactation

Identical cow at muster – No calf reared. Word buffalo fly problem (Supply Dr Geoff Fordyce).

One of many biggest challenges for producers, significantly in intensive areas, is to visually assess udders throughout lactation. As soon as a cow ceases milk manufacturing, the udder and teats return to regular dimension and form.

“Researchers have been stunned by the outcomes, and recommend the losses from bottle teats throughout intensive herds could also be increased than analysis suggests”

Within the case of Calf Alive, the researchers have been stunned by their outcomes, and recommend the losses from bottle teats throughout intensive herds could also be increased than analysis suggests thus far.

GBVs in progress

The reasonable to excessive diploma of heritability for teat form does supply the chance to pick out for cows much less more likely to develop the issue. Dr Geoff Fordyce advised Beef Central that the business’s northern genomics analysis continued to take teat and udder scores – “and we hope to have an across-breeds GBV sooner or later.”

This opens up the potential for producers who’re unable to evaluate cattle throughout lactation to think about GBVs as a part of their choice knowledge to handle the issue. Whereas these GBVs are but to be developed, choice primarily based on failure to rear a calf is one constructive possibility business producers ought to think about extra intently. Failure to rear a calf could a extra necessary standards than merely being in calf.

For seedstock producers, number of cows on the premise of Teat Scores (1 – 5) has been confirmed as being repeatable and efficient in figuring out these animals with much less fascinating teat sizes and at larger danger of growing bottle teats.

It is very important observe that there are breed guides for Temperate Breeds equivalent to Angus, which rating Teat Dimension on a scale of 1 (small, button dimension) to five (Supreme) to 9 (Giant/Bottle)

Supply Angus Australia

In utilizing this technique you will need to make sure what scale is getting used and keep it up.  Together with this evaluation as a part of a seedstock program can considerably contribute to higher outcomes for producers utilizing these genetics together with their very own in yard choice selections.


Alastair Rayner is the Principal of RaynerAg, an agricultural advisory service primarily based in NSW.  RaynerAg is affiliated with BJA Inventory & Station Brokers.  He usually lists and promote cattle for purchasers as effectively attending bull gross sales to assist shopper purchases.  Alastair gives pre-sale alternatives and classifications for seedstock producers in NSW, Qld and Victoria.  He may be contacted right here or by way of his web site www.raynerag.com.au














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