Contrary to what a vast number of people think, brown cows do not give chocolate milk. Red cows do not give strawberry milk. Cows of all shapes and colors give white milk. Yes, even the black cows.
There are various cattle breeds used for different purposes, be it for meat production, animal husbandry, or for the production of dairy.
So, how many famous breeds of Dairy Cows are there?
There are six breed of cows that are predominantly used as dairy cows :
- 1Holstein cows
- 2Jersey cows
- 3Guernsey cows
- 4Shorthorn cows
- 5Ayrshire cows
- 6Swiss or brown cows
Each of them has a different history and produces milk that has different nutritional values. They all look different as well.
Let’s take a look at all these types of cows in detail and why they are famous for producing dairy.
1. Holstein Friesian Cow
When you think of cows, you probably think of the black and white Holstein, the most common breed of cattle that accounts for 90% of dairy cows in America. These cows are interesting in that no two cows have the same pattern. They can, however, either be black with white spots or vice-versa.
Holstein cows first came to America way back in mid-17th-century from the Netherlands. A healthy cow will weigh anywhere between 800-1000 pounds and bred when they are about 13 months old.
In terms of milk production, an average cow that is milked thrice a day has been known to produce over 72,000 pounds of milk in a year. Holstein cows are so commercially popular because they produce more milk and at a faster rate than any other cows across the country. The milk they produce is typically A1.
2. Jersey Cows
Jersey cows are the second most popular breed in America, after Holstein. They originally belonged to Britain but they were brought over to America in 1860.
Jersey cows are the smallest breed of dairy cattle and weigh 400-450 kilos. They have a strong frame and build. Typically light brown in color, the jersey cows can also be found in shades of grey or even dull black and are called Mulberry cows. They have white or beige spots covering much of their bodies, black noses, and beautiful eyes.
The world record for milk production was set by a Holstein cow from Wisconsin in 2017 that produced 78,170 pounds of milk that year.
Jersey cows are considered good breeders, and hardly have any calving or fertility related issues.
Jersey cows produce milk that is rich in nutrients and fat content. Their milk is usually ‘whole,’ and the best yields are often processed into cheese and other dairy products. The milk is considered unique as it contains almost 18% more protein, 20% more calcium, and 25% more butterfat.
3. Guernsey Cows
These cows originally belong to the Isle of Guernsey in the British channel, from where they get their names. They come in varying shades of yellow, fawn, russet, and brown, with creamy, white patches, and weigh slightly heavier than the Jersey cows at 500-550 kilos.
They consume 20-30% less feed and are ready to be bred around 22-25 months. These cows are known to have mild temperaments.
The milk they produce contains very high levels of butterfat. The fat content in Guernsey cows’ milk is higher than the fat in ordinary milk and has been known to have a better balance than milk produced by Jersey cows.
They are known as the ‘Royal Breed’ or ‘Golden Guernsey.’ Why? They produce rich golden and creamy milk that gets its color from high levels of beta carotene, which is a valuable source of Vitamin A. Their milk also contains nearly thrice the amount of Omega 3 as milk produced by other cows.
4. Shorthorn Cows
Shorthorn cows are perhaps the most versatile breeds, as they’ve been used to produce beef and dairy from as early as 1783 England. Now, however, they have two separate types, one for dairy and the other for meat. This breed of cows is significant in the development of other cattle breeds. Their genetics have been used across the globe extensively to develop over 40 different breeds. The reason for this lies, yet again, in their versatility.
Dairy Shorthorns are red, white, or a mixture of red and white, commonly known as roan. This is not found in any other breed of cattle. They are of average build and frame and weigh between 600-900 kilos.
They also have superior hooves and leg structure.
Shorthorn cow’s milk has a favorable protein-fat ratio, which makes the marketing of it and its products feasible in commercial terms. They are known to produce around 9000 kilos of milk in 365 days, at a low feed cost.
5. Ayrshire Cows
Brought to America in 1822, Ayrshire cows were originally from the county of Ayr in Scotland. They are a sturdy and strong breed of cattle that were conditioned to be hardy because of their Scottish heritage.
The ruggedness of the terrain and harsh climatic conditions made them hardy. They used to be called Dunlops.
Ayrshire cows are orange-brown, a light red and white, or darker mahogany. They are of average build and weigh around 500-600 kilos. Their horns often grow a foot or more in length and are a hallmark of this breed. They are, however, known to be quite temperamental. An indication of their Scottish red hides, perhaps?
The Ayrshire cows are known for their vigorous grazing and for being efficient in the production of milk. Their efficiency makes them a viable source of dairy and value-added commercial products like hard cheeses.
6. Swiss or Brown Cows
Swiss cows are believed to be the oldest breed of cattle and can be traced all the way back to 400 B.C. They have been around much longer than the other breeds. They were first found in the north-eastern part of Switzerland. Documentary evidence shows that Benedictine monks started to breed these cattle as early as 1000 years ago.
The color of their hides can vary from silvery-white to dark brown. They have large ears. They are blue-eyed with creamy white muzzles and have horns that are short and white. They are strong and prolific breeders, known for their sturdy build, robust health, and high quality of the milk they produce. They are also used for their meat output.
The milk that brown Swiss cows produce is known worldwide for its thickness and high-fat content that makes it creamy and rich. The volume of the milk and the protein content in it has a hand production of the best cheese and other dairy products. You don’t need to read this article to know how good Swiss cheese is.
These six breeds of cattle are scattered across the world, and over the years, have been taken from their natural homes over to other countries for cross production. This was done to create new breeds of cows that produce higher quality and quantity of milk, live longer, and are of good temperament and of the strong body to be good breeders. Dairy cows, in particular, have huge commercial value. 90% of the world’s population consumes milk or milk products daily. Just something to keep in mind the next time you pick up a carton of milk off the shelf at the store or buy a slab of soft, salty cheese 🙂