Happy Lines in Cattle

Happy Lines

Attending a dairy grazing conference last year in Virginia I was listening to a veterinarian for one of the organic grazing coops speak about healthy cows when he pointed out a cow with “happy lines” on her.  While the cow wasn’t smiling she did look very healthy and happy.  Slick, shiny hair coat and with that nice contented look in her eye all good stockman like to see, and, as the vet pointed out,  a string of horizontal lines across her rib cage. He said this was a sign of a cow well in tune with her environment and something we should strive to see in a majority of our cows.

Not being a dairyman, I thought this must be a dairy cow phenonemen, but looking at my fellow attendees, mostly dairyman, I realized they too had just learned something new. Before I could raise my hand to ask more questions the vet was off on another subject while I sat and thought more about this new insight.

Back at the motel I googled “happy lines in cattle” and came up with little more information than what I had just heard. As soon as I arrived home I went out to look among our herd and was pleased to see well over half carried the “happy lines” mark. So now I really wanted to believe the vet was correct for we always want it to be accurate what we want to be true!

Judy and I have noticed it’s not always the fattest cows that have the marks, but it’s only in cows that have a real healthy sheen to their coats.  If this is a true marker it would be a terrific way to gauge your forage and mineral program. Sure would appreciate any feedback and input on “happy lines” as it would be nice to know just why it happens and if it’s a true indicator of robust health in our cows.

I’ve added a couple of photos of happy lines on our cows and here’s a of  links to an article where happy lines are discussed.


Happy Lines





About Steve Freeman

Steve Freeman joined Forester Industries as a partner in 2005 after being one of the first customers to use the PasturePro post. He installed his first electric fence in the early 1980’s and implemented management intensive grazing in 1987. Presently, the operation is exclusively beef cattle, but in the past it has also included both goats and sheep. Steve is always happy to talk grazing practices, livestock raising and fence building.
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4 Responses to Happy Lines in Cattle

  1. avatar Ben Coleman says:

    This the second time I have heard the term Happy Lines. We have a bull a person noticed it on. Personally I figured it was marks from going through bush, who knows.

    • avatar Steve Freeman says:

      Hi Ben,

      And it does look just like the cows have traveled through some brush or you have taken a broken branch and raked them from front to back. Until I began noticing the marks on a lot of cows I would have never given the “happy lines” another thought.
      Thanks for weighing in.

  2. avatar calvin johnson Sidney, Montana says:

    Steve, Posts are solid. I recall the tail of pin was touching wire, this would be same as loose conection. Ground rods are hooked together with copper wire, will add more rods. I will do more checking as to your suggestions. Happy lines on cows very interesting let’s find out more. Thank you for the reply, Calvin

  3. avatar Eric Fuchs says:

    I really enjoy your blogs, sure wish you would write more of them!

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