The Top 5 Dairy Cow Breeds in America

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Dairy cows are a type of domesticated cattle that are specifically bred for the production of milk for human consumption. They are typically larger and have more developed udders than beef cattle, which are raised for meat production. Dairy cows are usually milked by hand or with milking machines on a daily basis, and their milk is used to make various dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and butter.

Dairy cows are an important part of the agriculture industry, providing a source of food and income for farmers and supporting local communities. With so many breeds of dairy cows, it can be difficult to know which ones are the best for milk production. In this article, we'll take a look at the top 5 dairy cow breeds in America and explore the reasons for their popularity, as well as their pros and cons.

1. Holstein​

The Top 5 Dairy Cow Breeds in America

The Holstein is the most popular dairy breed in America, making up about 90% of the dairy cow population. Holsteins are known for their high milk production, averaging 22,000 pounds of milk per year. They are also efficient feed converters, meaning they can produce more milk with less feed than other breeds. Holsteins have black and white markings, making them easily recognizable.

Pros: High milk production, efficient feed converters, easily recognizable
Cons: Can be prone to health problems, lower butterfat content in their milk

2. Jersey​

The Top 5 Dairy Cow Breeds in America

The Jersey breed is a small breed that is known for its high butterfat content, making it ideal for producing butter and cheese. Jerseys produce an average of 14,000 pounds of milk per year, but their milk has a butterfat content of 4-6%, compared to the 3-4% of Holsteins. Jerseys are also known for their gentle and docile temperaments, making them a good choice for smaller dairy operations.

Pros: High butterfat content, docile temperaments, good for smaller dairy operations
Cons: Lower milk production compared to other breeds, more susceptible to heat stress

3. Brown Swiss​

The Top 5 Dairy Cow Breeds in America

The Brown Swiss is a large breed of dairy cow that is known for its longevity and durability. Brown Swiss cows can produce an average of 18,000 pounds of milk per year and are known for their high protein content, making their milk ideal for cheese production. They are also known for their strong health and ability to adapt to a variety of climates and conditions.

Pros: High protein content, strong health, adaptable to various climates
Cons: Lower milk production compared to Holsteins, more difficult to handle due to their size

4. Ayrshire​

The Top 5 Dairy Cow Breeds in America

The Ayrshire breed is a medium-sized breed that is known for its high butterfat and protein content in its milk. Ayrshires produce an average of 16,000 pounds of milk per year and are known for their strong health and ability to adapt to different climates. They are also known for their friendly and active temperaments.

Pros: High butterfat and protein content, strong health, friendly temperaments
Cons: Lower milk production compared to Holsteins, more susceptible to heat stress

5. Guernsey​

The Top 5 Dairy Cow Breeds in America

The Guernsey breed is a small breed of dairy cow that is known for its rich and creamy milk, high in butterfat content. Guernseys produce an average of 15,000 pounds of milk per year and are known for their good health and adaptability to different climates. They are also known for their friendly and docile temperaments.

Pros: Rich and creamy milk, high butterfat content, friendly temperaments
Cons: Lower milk production compared to Holsteins, more susceptible to heat stress

Summary​

In conclusion, the top 5 dairy cow breeds in America include the Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, and Guernsey. Each breed has its own unique qualities that make it a good choice for milk production, whether it be high milk production, the high butterfat content, strong health, or adaptability to different climates. It's important to consider the pros and cons of each breed when choosing the best dairy cow for your operation.

Do you have any dairy cows on your homestead? If so, which breeds are you raising?
 

farmerjan

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As a long time milk tester I have to refute some of what is printed about the 5 main breeds.
FIRST OFF ... the picture of the Guernseys... the cow in the forefront is NOT the typical guernsey...., THEY DO NOT HAVE DARK NOSES like that shown. The cow on the right side with the rear end towards you is much more typical of the Guernsey breed. Although originally a smaller type cow, they have been bred ... to their detriment.. as a much taller larger breed. They are no longer a hardy breed either... Their frailty has been of major concern for many years in the breed.
They do have a much higher beta-carotene content in their milk which gives it that "Golden Guernsey" color that the slogan was founded on.
Ayshires are not known as a real friendly type cow. They tend towards being high strung.. Again... this is a result of some less than desireable breeding trends over the years. They are not subject to the heat stress that was stated that I have ever heard from any breeders.
Brown Swiss may be the "gentle giants" of the breed but they have a stubborn temperment that has been a long known problem for raising the calves and such. They are sweet in their way, but it takes a certain kind of person to deal with their "doing things when where and if they want".... the calves are hard to raise in that there is a syndrome that they would rather just starve than drink a bottle if they have had a chance to nurse the cow first. I have several farmers with swiss and we talk about it all the time. They are slow maturing and very very difficult to finish a swiss steer for meat for the freezer before it gets older and gets tougher.

Jerseys... you either love 'em or hate 'em. They are smaller, but are smart and much quicker... quick to kick and hurt you if they are in a mood... I have several... they do have higher butterfat and make a good family cow if you get one that is used to hand milking... the bulls are the most dangerous of the dairy breeds and will turn on you with no warning. I have had several and not had a problem... but you need to understand the breed. Great to use as nurse cows if they have a good nature... mine will raise 3-8 calves a year if I really push to rotate them off the cows. I have eaten jersey beef for the last 30+ years. They are no more prone to heat stress than any other breed. They also seem to do well in the colder New England states which seems strange with their frailer build than a sturdy big swiss or holsteins. Their body metabolism is a little faster which helps them in colder climates. Jersey's are also the most often prone to "milk fever" of the breeds but any animal can get it when first fresh.

Holsteins were bred for years to produce high volume and low fat... but over the last 20 years they have swung back to being a much more all around cow. Still high volume but much more balanced fat. They eat alot, produce alot, and are very efficient.

There are several other breeds that make good family cows and many crosses. Dutch Belted are pretty and good milkers and not too large a cow. Linebacks are bigger stouter cattle, milk good and keep more body fat. Normande cattle and Montebeliardes are very nice and beefier than many "straight dairy breeds" and milk good with higher butterfat. There are smaller breeds, like Kerry cattle, a dual type purpose breed originally from Ireland but not especially friendly. Dexters are known as multipurpose cattle and there are several breeders that promote them.
There are miniature breeds but they have some serious drawbacks with breeding and genetic problems in some.
 

Finnie

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I would think that the average homesteading family wouldn’t need an American Top Five dairy breed for just their family. Seems like that would be over the top production. Like @farmerjan said, other breeds, crosses and multi purpose cattle would provide milk and meat.

I would like to have a cow some day, and I used to think it would have to be a mini because of space and not needing that much milk. But as I have done a little reading up, I have learned that mini might not be the way to go. But I have time. I will cross that bridge when I come to it. (DH will say no. But I want to hear mooing. 😂)
 

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