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Points Of A Good Cow

Category: History and Breeds

After satisfaction is afforded touching the age of a cow, she should be
examined with reference to her soundness of constitution. A good
constitution is indicated by large lungs, which are found in a deep,
broad, and prominent chest, broad and well-spread ribs, a respiration
somewhat slow and regular, a good appetite, and if in milk a strong
inclination to drink, which a large secretion of milk almost invariably
stimulates. In such a cow the digestive organs are active and energetic,
and they make an abundance of good blood, which in turn stimulates the
activity of the nervous system, and furnishes the milky glands with the
means of abundant secretion. Such a cow, when dry, readily takes on fat.
When activity of the milk-glands is found united with close ribs, small
and feeble lungs, and a slow appetite, often attended by great thirst,
the cow will generally possess only a weak and feeble constitution; and
if the milk is plentiful, it will generally be of bad quality, while the
animal, if she does not die of diseased lungs, will not readily take on
fat, when dry and fed.

In order to have no superfluous flesh, the cow should have a small,
clean, and rather long head, tapering toward the muzzle. A cow with a
large, coarse head will seldom fatten readily, or give a large quantity
of milk. A coarse head increases the proportion of weight of the least
valuable parts, while it is a sure indication that the whole bony
structure is too heavy. The mouth should be large and broad; the eye
bright and sparkling, but of a peculiar placidness of expression, with
no indication of wildness, but rather a mild and feminine look. These
points will indicate gentleness of disposition. Such cows seem to like
to be milked, are fond of being caressed, and often return caresses. The
horns should be small, short, tapering, yellowish, and glistening. The
neck should be small, thin, and tapering toward the head, but thickening
when it approaches the shoulder; the dewlaps small. The fore quarters
should be rather small when compared with the hind quarters. The form of
the barrel will be large, and each rib should project further than the
preceding one, up to the loins. She should be well formed across the
hips and in the rump.

The spine or back-bone should be straight and long, rather loosely hung,
or open along the middle part, the result of the distance between the
dorsal vertebrae, which sometimes causes a slight depression, or sway
back. By some good judges, this mark is regarded as of great importance,
especially when the bones of the hind quarters are also rather loosely
put together, leaving the rump of great width and the pelvis large, and
the organs and milk-vessels lodged in the cavities largely developed.
The skin over the rump should be loose and flexible. This point is of
great importance; and as, when the cow is in low condition or very poor,
it will appear somewhat harder and closer than it otherwise would, some
practice and close observation are required to judge well of this mark.
The skin, indeed, all over the body, should be soft and mellow to the
touch, with soft and glossy hair. The tail, if thick at the setting on,
should taper and be fine below.

But the udder is of special importance. It should be large in
proportion to the size of the animal, and the skin thin, with soft,
loose folds extending well back, capable of great distension when
filled, but shrinking to a small compass when entirely empty. It must be
free from lumps in every part, and provided with four teats set well
apart, and of medium size. Nor is it less important to observe the
milk-veins carefully. The principal ones under the belly should be large
and prominent, and extend forward to the navel, losing themselves,
apparently, in the very best milkers, in a large cavity in the flesh,
into which the end of the finger can be inserted; but when the cow is
not in full milk, the milk-vein, at other times very prominent, is not
so distinctly traced; and hence, to judge of its size when the cow is
dry, or nearly so, this vein may be pressed near its end, or at its
entrance into the body, when it will immediately fill up to its full
size. This vein does not convey the milk to the udder, as some suppose,
but is the channel by which the blood returns; and its contents consist
of the refuse of the secretion, or of what has not been taken up in
forming milk. There are also veins in the udder, and the perineum, or
the space above the udder, and between that and the buttocks, which it
is of special importance to observe. These veins should be largely
developed, and irregular or knotted, especially those of the udder. They
are largest in great milkers.

The knotted veins of the perineum, extending from above downwards in a
winding line, are not readily seen in young heifers, and are very
difficult to find in poor cows, or those of only a medium quality. They
are easily found in very good milkers, and if not at first apparent,
they are made so by pressing upon them at the base of the perineum,
when they swell up and send the blood back toward the vulva. They form
a kind of thick network under the skin of the perineum, raising it up
somewhat, in some cases near the vulva, in others nearer down and closer
to the udder. It is important to look for these veins, as they often
form a very important guide, and by some they would be considered as
furnishing the surest indications of the milking qualities of the cow.
Full development almost always shows an abundant secretion of milk; but
they are far better developed after the cow has had two or three calves,
when two or three years' milking has given full activity to the milky
glands, and attracted a large flow of blood. The larger and more
prominent these veins the better. It is needless to say that in
observing them some regard should be had to the condition of the cow,
the thickness of skin and fat by which they may be surrounded, and the
general activity and food of the animal. Food calculated to stimulate
the greatest flow of milk will naturally increase these veins, and give
them more than usual prominence.

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