General signs to observe when purchasing an animal

Dairy cow

Farmers will find themselves looking for animals to purchase from time to time. The purchasing process is itself daunting and it helps when a farmer engages in the process from a point of information. Below are signs you should look out for when choosing an animal to purchase.

Eyes should be bright, clear and not runny (no discharge), crusty or bloodshot.

Nose should be cool, moist muzzle, with frequent licking; breathing should be regular and not laboured; beware of discharge, coughing, wheezing or irregular breathing.

Coat should be glossy, clean and un-matted, free of ticks/lice, other parasites or eruptions.

Weight: Average weight for the breed; beware of emaciated or thin animals.

Attitude: Curious, alert and contented; beware of cattle that stand apart from the herd, that seem disinterested or that show signs of a bad temper.

Mobility: Walking should be easy and free of limps; beware of slow or uneven gaits or hunched positions when sitting; the animal should be able to rise from seated positions with ease.

Udder: Healthy; size isn’t necessarily an indicator of a good udder. It should sit forward with prominent milk veins, not sag and not be too meaty. Observe the cow when she walks, the udder should not show too much sideways movement.

Body score: This is an important indicator of the health of the animal. An animal in good health will have a body score between 3-4. The graphic below illustrate the different body scores.

Body score graphic

A low score may indicate diseases or improper feeding while a high score may indicate a high probability of breeding and metabolic problems.

History: It is important to have a record of the detailed history of the animal on number of calvings, recorded milk yield during previous lactation, any specific disease occurrence like mastitis, prolapse of uterus, ROP, dystocia, hypocalcaemia etc.

Age: Though not directly related to health, the farmer should also ensure the age of the animal by referring to its dentition.

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