Ageing Goats

Number and arrangement of teeth

Estimating the age of goats is done by looking at the teeth. The arrangement of teeth on the jaw, from front to back, is incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Ruminants only have incisors on the bottom jaw. The top jaw has a thick layer of tissue called the “dental pad.” Ruminants do not have canine teeth and this open space along the jaw is useful when needing to insert one’s fingers to pry open a goat’s mouth for drenching, tubing, or other purposes.

Mature goats will have a total of 8 incisors (4 pair), 6 premolars (3 pair), and 6 molars (3 pair). It is customary when ageing goats by looking at their teeth to discuss teeth in terms of “pairs” rather than in total.

Telling the age of goats

Young goats have deciduous or “baby” teeth that are replaced by permanent teeth at a later age. Kids are generally born with the central pair of deciduous incisors (incisors erupt from the center outward) with the second pair erupting at 1 to 2 weeks, third pair at 2 to 3 weeks and the fourth pair erupting at 3 to 4 weeks of age. Kids also will develop 3 pairs of deciduous premolars but no molars.

As kids age, the deciduous incisors are replaced by permanent incisors, again from the center pair outward. The middle pair of deciduous incisors will be replaced sometime around 12 months. The second, third, and fourth pairs are replaced at roughly yearly intervals at 1.5 to 2 years, 2.5 to 3 years, and 3.5 to 4 years of age. Thus, a goat with 1 pair of permanent incisors is roughly 1 year of age, 2 pair of permanent incisors is 2 years of age, and so on. At four years of age when all permanent teeth are in place, the animal may be referred to as having a “full mouth.”

Ageing goats over 4 years of age is more difficult. Over time, the gums recede and teeth appear elongated. Teeth may also become broken or worn down from grazing and foraging. Animals that have broken or lost teeth are often referred to as “broken mouthed.” “Undershot” is a condition in which the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw whereas “overshot” is the opposite. Malformed teeth can affect the ability to graze and consume nutrients.

Kid (‹1 year of age)

1 year old

2 year old

3 year old

4 year old

8 1/2 year old

Broken mouth

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