Viewed from the side, a cow with a deep, long body with wide, well-sprung ribs is said to have a large body capacity. Large body capacity is associated with superior milk production. A dairy cow with little body capacity is not a great milk producer.
A broad muzzle implies the ability to get the food into her mouth and to chew her cud effectively. Cows with a narrow chest as determined by the width between the fore-legs are not normally good producers.
Also if at least two fingers can be placed between the ribs of a dairy cow, she is said to have great capacity.
The udder should be your main priority. It must be pliable, silky in texture and sack-like in nature. When viewed from the side it should not hang below the cow’s hock, but should be close to the body, giving an appearance of support rather than swinging loosely and freely. It should be full and firm with no hard spots, redness, or swelling. The central suspensory ligament must be strong and well attached. Remember that a large udder is not always a sign that the cow is a good producer.
The teats should be even, medium sized and centrally placed on each quarter of the udder. Over and undersized teats should be avoided. Note that teats of older cow appear fuller than those of younger ones. A teat that is not working will look much smaller than the other teats. Mastitis is a common problem on most farms. Find out whether the farm has had a problem of mastitis and what actions they have taken to control it. Avoid introducing a chronic carrier into your farm.
Feet and legs
Good feet and strong legs are important because cows may have to walk long distances to and from their feed. From the side view the hind leg should be slightly sickle-shaped with a steep pastern. Any cow which is unable to stand up and/or walk with ease is useless, even if she has the most perfect udder in the world. The legs of the cow should be clean and blemish-free, and she should walk without signs of lameness.
Easy care – management, temperament, health
Avoid cows with temperament problems. The cow should have a calm and easy disposition. Observe the behaviour of the people working around her. This should tell you a lot. Many cows with a chronic disease will show symptoms, but others will show nothing. If the cow is very thin and rough-coated, she could merely need a good deworming and feeding. Or she could be chronically ill with any of a number of non-fatal diseases, in which case she will probably never look any better and may even infect your other livestock. Ask for assistance from your nearest veterinary officer to perform a health examination.
Sourced from Dr Jolly Kabirizi and Dr Swidiq Mugerwa from NaLIRRI