Contact: Eldon Cole, livestock
in Lawrence County
MT. VERNON, Mo. -- May and June are good months to evaluate
the hair shedding nature of cattle according to Eldon Cole, livestock
specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
“Research at several institutions reveal that early shedding
cows tend to be more productive regarding weaning weight of their calves. Weight differences of 20 or more pounds
favored the early shedders,” said Cole.
EARLY MU RESEARCH
University of Missouri researchers began scoring cows and
yearlings for shedding ability and hair growth in 1992 at the Southwest
Research Center. The cattle in the
studies were grazing fescue that contained the toxin producing endophyte.
Studies dealt with shade, mineral supplementation and clean well water versus dirty pond water that had
cattle traffic in it.
“In those early years, we suspected there could be genetic
implications that caused some wooly cattle to perform poorly but no serious
selection pressure was applied toward the early shedders,” said Cole.
In fact, most of the early effort was directed toward
selecting novel or friendly endophytes in the development of non-toxic fescue
instead of selecting adaptable cattle.
GENETICS MATTER NOW
We now are at the point where both cow-calf producers and seedstock raisers observe hair shedding more
“Genomic studies are being used to evaluate the heritability
of haircoat retention. An important feature is to score haircoats of
cattle about this time of the year,” said Cole.
Getting rid of the winter haircoat
begins in southwest Missouri around early April. However, some animals still appear to have
all their hair in June.
“These late, or never shedders, are the ones that suffer and
are more likely to wean lightweight
calves and have lower calving rates,” said Cole.
Many factors influence shedding such as breed, individual
genetic makeup, nutrition, forage, day length, temperature,
“In the early 1990’s at the Southwest Research Center, we scored the cattle on a one to four scale for shedding and evidence of fescue
sensitivity. The scoring system has now been adjusted
to a one to five range. The one score is an animal that is completely shed
off from front to rear and top to bottom.
I usually refer to them as ‘slick as a mole’,” said Cole.
The 2’s are mostly shed
off, 75 percent or so, and most of the long hair will be on the lower part of
the body. A three score is about 50
percent shed; a four is only 25 percent shed most of which is in the neck, shoulder
region and down the back. The 5’s still has its winter coat with no evidence
“If you have the 5’s in the chute, you can try to pull hair out, and it is firmly attached,” said Cole.
The scoring system is subjective. However, if the same
person does the scoring in their herd, it
gives a producer a good idea of cattle that could give more problems from “hot”
fescue and heat stress as we move into the summer.
According to Cole, some of the 4’s and 5’s that are stressed
will benefit from clipping.
“The individual scoring of cattle may even result in farmers
realizing that late shedding is more of a problem than first thought,” said
For more information, contact
any of the MU Extension livestock specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole
in Lawrence County, (417) 466-3102; Andy McCorkill in Dallas County at (417)
345-7551; Dr. Randy Wiedmeier, in Howell County at (417) 256-2391; or Dr.
Patrick Davis in Cedar County at (417) 276-3313.