Most market specifications include age limits. These are usually defined by dentition, the number of permanent incisor teeth.

It could be important for you to mouth your cattle prior to sale to ensure they all meet their market specification for dentition. Discounts will apply if they don't meet the dentition specifications.

The age of an animal affects meat quality in terms of tenderness, meat colour and flavor.

Processors and feedlots determine the age of an animal through dentition. They mouth animals to determine the number of permanent teeth.

The exact age at which the next pair of teeth erupts varies from animal to animal. It is influenced by genetics, nutrition and environment. Earlier maturing breeds "cut their teeth" earlier than later maturing cattle.

If some animals in a mob are ahead of others and starting to get their adult teeth, you may need to redirect these animals to another market to avoid penalties.

Table 1 provides guidelines on the age when the permanent teeth (incisors) erupt. Before 18 -24 months they will have milk teeth.

Table 1:

Eruption of Permanent Incisors

Approximate Age (months)


Less 18












Dentition is one of the features described in the AUS-MEAT beef description language.

For illustrated information on mouthing cattle and the importance of sound teeth in cows see cattle must have sound teeth.

Future Beef provides a guide to aging cattle by their teeth as age is an important part of livestock trading as many markets have age limitations.