How to guesstimate the age of a cow?

Written by Dr. Tom Juma.

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Several methods are used to estimate the age of cattle. The most common one being through dentition or the teeth method. You examine the teeth of the cows noting the time of appearance and the extent of wearing out. The cow’s teeth wears down as she ages and become more triangular in shape. 

Why is estimating the age of a cow important?

At maturity, cattle have 32 teeth, eight of which are incisors in the lower jaw. The two central incisors are known as pinchers; the third pair are called second intermediates or laterals; and the outer pair are known as the corners. There are no upper incisor teeth; only the thick, hard dental pad.

At birth to one month

The temporary or milk teeth, can be differentiated from permanent teeth by their smaller size and whiter color. Two or more of the temporary incisor teeth are present. Within the first month, the entire eight temporary incisors appear.

At 2 years

As a long-yearling, the central pair of temporary incisor teeth or pinchers is replaced by the permanent pinchers. At 2 years, the central permanent incisors attain full development.

At 2-2.5 years

Permanent first intermediates, one on each side of the pinchers, are cut. Usually these are fully developed at 3 years.

At 3-3.5 years

The second intermediates or laterals are cut. They are on a level with the first intermediates and begin to wear at 4 years.

At 4-4.5 years


The corner teeth are replaced. At 5 years the animal usually has the full complement of incisors with the corners fully developed.

At 5-6 years

The permanent pinchers are levelled, both pairs of intermediates are partially levelled, and the corner incisors show wear.

At 7-10 years

At 7 or 8 years the pinchers show noticeable wear; at 8 or 9 years the middle pairs show noticeable wear; and at 10 years, the corner teeth show noticeable wear.

At 12 years

After the animal passed the sixth year, the arch gradually loses its rounded contour and becomes nearly straight by the twelfth year. In the meantime, the teeth gradually become triangular in shape, distinctly separated, and show progressive wearing to stubs. These conditions become more marked with increasing age.