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Parts of an Udder

Kaylee Bolinsky, Tri Circle B Farm

The udder is a key structure of a dairy goat. Understanding the parts of the mammary system is important for many reasons, including maintenance of optimal udder health, breeding up, or keeping continued udder quality throughout generations. Evaluating the udder can easily become overwhelming if you are unsure of where each individual structure is located and what the importance of that said structure is.



Rear Udder View

The rear view of the udder consists of many important features. When viewing a doe’s mammary system from the rear, the first thing that will most likely stick out is the udder halves. Goats have two mammary glands, known very simply as the right and left mammary gland. The halves act independently of each other as they are not connected. The Medial Suspensory Ligament, also known as the intermammary groove or abbreviated to MSL, is the ligament that divides the udder halves as well as holding up the udder floor. The udder floor is the base of the udder. This is where the teats attach. The teats allow for the milk and colostrum to be expressed through the teat cistern, from the cistern gland and the duct system of the udder, and eventually out the orifice. The orifice is the opening at the end of the teat allowing milk/colostrum to be expressed through it. Finally, the escutcheon is the area available at the rump between the thighs and for the udder’s top rear attachments.


Attachments

The most obvious attachment is the rear udder attachment. The rear udder attachment is the attachment at the top of the udder. The RUA should be just below the vulva and is best viewed standing behind the goat. Moving down a bit is the lateral attachments. The lateral attachments run along the side of the udder and extends forward to the abdominal wall. Lateral attachments are best viewed from the side and while the doe is on the move. They cannot be properly evaluated from the rear. Last, but not least, is the fore-udder attachment. The fore-udder attachment is the attachment at the front of the udder that extends from the fore-udder to the body wall. This attachment is located right next to the lateral attachments.


Side View

When viewing a doe from the side you will see a number of different structures. One of them being the rear udder. The rear udder is very self-explanatory, it is the rear portion of the udder. It should easily be seen behind the thigh and sitting under the vulva. Moving to the front of the udder you will be able to spot the fore udder. The fore udder is the frontmost part of the udder, it should be seen protruding from in front of the stifle and extending down from the abdominal wall. The last part to include on the side view portion is the milk vein. The milk vein is a large, subcutaneous vein that extends along the bottom side of the abdomen on the doe. This vein is responsible for returning blood from the udder on a doe.


Inside the Mammary

The internal structures of the mammary system are complex, yet intriguing and important. The mammary gland is made up of two main structures, the parenchyma, and the stroma. The parenchyma is the secretory part of the gland. It consists of the alveolar and tubular systems. The stroma is made up of other tissues, such as the lymphatic vascular systems, as well as the conjunctive and nervous tissues. As stated above the udder also consists of two separate mammary glands being separated by the medial suspensory ligament. Milk is produced in the alveoli. Then it is transported through a duct system to gland cisterns. The cisterns are where the milk is stored prior to being expressed out.

As you can see the mammary system is a complex system on any goat doe but is judged more so on dairy doe’s. I personally feel that anybody who wants to maintain a healthy, hearty herd of dairy goats should have more than a basic understanding of the mammary system. Once you understand the basics it's always a good idea to expand your knowledge on the more complex side of things, like the internal mammary system structures. Knowledge is definitely power when raising livestock!


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