A dairy cow is just a cow right? Well kind of but, did you know there are seven different dairy cow breeds found in the United States? Let's introduce you!
The most popular breed found in the United States and probably the most recognized. These cows are black and white, tall and weigh 1,200-1,500 pounds when fully mature. Holsteins are prized for their milk production, at peak milk production they will produce around 23,000 pounds of milk a year. That equals out to about nine pounds of milk a day! On our farms, Holsteins make up the majority of the cows we have.
The Jersey is the second most popular breed found in the United States and one of the smallest in stature. These girls will average around 1,000 pounds, but what they lack in size they make up for in milk quality! Jerseys produce milk with a very high butterfat content. We love our Jersey's quirky behaviors, so much we even named our "Coffee with Karen" newsletter after one. If you follow along on our social media pages you'll see these girls pop up often.
Guernsey's are great cows for grazing. They have the ability to turn pasture into large amounts of milk and are highly adaptable to both cold and warm climates. Sometimes called the "Golden Guernsey" due to the fact that their milk has a slight golden tint to it. This is because they produce milk with a higher level of beta-carotene (the same vitamin that turns carrots orange).
They Brown Swiss is considered one of the oldest dairy breeds in the world. They compare in size to a Holstein, but look a little heavier and have big fuzzy ears. A Brown Swiss will produce around 22,500 pounds a milk of year and have a higher protein content, which makes their milk great for producing cheese. Side story - when Stephanie and I went to Costa Rica for a dairy internship we visited a farm that was cross-breeding Brown Swiss and Water Buffalo!
The Ayrshire breed originated in Scotland. These cattle are also efficient grazers, producing milk with good protein and butterfat components. They are a medium sized cow when fully mature, have great udder conformation and produce healthy, vigorous calves. Fun fact - The first dairy calf I showed at the county fair was an Ayrshire named Edith.
This breed is known for it's duel-purpose breeding. It was developed for both milk and high quality meat production. On average a cow will produce 15,000 pounds of milk a year or 4-5 gallons of milk a day. They are excellent grazing animals and have very few fertility issues.
Red & White Holstein
Different from the first breed we introduced, the Red & White Holstein is one of the newest breeds of dairy cattle, first recognized in 1964. Although very similar to the Holstein, they differ in color. The red and white pattern you see is due to two recessive genes found in the Holstein breed. Red & White Holsteins are much more tolerant to heat compared to their black and white cousins.
And that's it! The most popular breeds found in the USA. Which one would you want on your farm?
WW Homestead Dairy Team
We love cows, curds & ice cream!!!