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Teat Structure
More than What Meets the Eye

By Shelene Costello

Picture 1 is this doe’s normal teat placement, not ideal as her teats are farther out to the side and point out more than ideal. Below is the same doe, where I have pulled up the medial suspensory ligament where it should be, and brought the teats in to be where they should be, more toward the inside of the udder floor and pointing down.

Picture 3 is of a doe, whose rear udder attachments were not strong enough and not smooth enough, and allowed her udder to hang forward, letting her teats rise above the udder floor pointing too far forward. It was very hard to get all of the milk from the floor of her udder beneath those teats, making her much more prone to mastitis from milk left in her udder after
milking. In her progeny as we managed to breed for tighter rear udder attachment we were able to bring those teats back up under the udder floor and make milking out completely much easier.

When I go out to milk every day I look at the teats and udders of the girls I’m milking. I consider how easy they are to milk, how much milk they give, how close they are in udder points to the ideal standards put forth by the American Dairy Goat Association.

To me, the most important thing to consider when evaluating dairy goat udders is if they are functional. They must produce an adequate or above average quantity of milk, but they must also do it from a healthy, easy to milk udder. In my years of experience, I have learned that teat placement can really make a difference in how easy it is to milk out a doe.

In much of breeding dairy goats, we look at what nature intended to be functional and then we add in some things that are not as natural, since we want our does to not only milk to feed their offspring (as nature intended), but also to make more than their kids may need, and milk much longer than nature ever intended. Functionally correct teat placement for hand or machine milking is not exactly what nature intended, but what we as humans want to have. In nature, teats would tend to point out a bit more and be more to the outside and front of the udder to make it easy for kids to nurse.

Since most dairy goat breeders are looking for genetic pairings that increase milk production and better the ease of getting that milk, it makes sense to breed for teats that are placed a bit more to the middle of the udder half and point down into a bucket.

While I much prefer to milk by hand, even machine milking needs teats that point more down and forward a little bit to make it easier for the humans to reach up and under and get to the teat.

If the teats are placed very far to the outside of the udder half, then hands or the inflations are going to bang into the doe’s legs and it will take more effort to make the milk squirt down into a bucket. If they are up on the side or to the front of the udder, it will take more work to empty the lower part of the udder floor. When teats are too close together, it is difficult to get hands or inflations around the teats without rubbing or banging into each other. When the teats are placed too far back, the legs become an obstacle when milking.

Ideally, I want to have teats placed about 2/3 of the way from the middle of the udder toward the leg, and closer to the front end of the udder, but still well down on the udder floor. I want the teats to point down and slightly forward to make it easy to squeeze milk down into a pail that is set in front of the rear legs, since I milk from the side of the goat.

To breed for teats that are placed in that position, we need to understand what makes teats end up where they are on the udder.

We have to take into consideration the whole udder structure to see what causes teats to be placed as they are.

Ideally, if the medial suspensory ligament is well held up, it will pull the middle of the udder up a bit, dividing it in half, and bring in teats from where nature would have put them out to the side a bit, in to the ideal standard.

If the rear udder attachments are doing their job, the teats hang down toward the front, but do not point up in the air as they would if the udder drops forward. And if the front udder attachments are where they should be, it will keep the udder held up snug and not let it hang and drop down, pushing teats back and out of reach.

Picture 4 is a doe whose teats normally point nearly plumb, but when I bring her medial suspensory ligament up closer to ideal, her teats begin to point inward, not the easiest trait to milk. When breeding her, I have to keep in mind, that while I would like a lightly stronger medial, I also do not want teats that are anymore toward the inside of the udder floor.

While it is possible to breed just for teat placement, if we don’t take care to understand where the teat placement can be affected by other parts of the udder, we may compound our problems later on when we change focus to say, breeding for a tighter medial suspensory ligament. Then if we have bred for closer teats, once we bring up the medial suspensory ligament, the teats are now going to be too close together or pointing inward. Or if we begin to breed for a higher rear udder attachment, those teats that were placed well, will now be too far back.

I tend to play with my goats a bit while milking. I may pick up the rear udder a bit to see where it could be improved, or push up on the medial to see if I can bring teats into better alignment. I’ve been known to push udders forward, and backward to see what looks better. In my quest for not only a functional udder, but a correct near ideal one as well, I’m always checking to see what may be improved in the next breeding and what bloodlines or families have the traits I want. I look for a family where the does have the closer to ideal teat placement and hope that the buck can improve a particular trait in my does in the next generation or two. I have to keep in mind all of the things that can affect teat placement, as when I am considering teat placement, there really is more than just what meets the eye.

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