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Dairy Breeds 101

June 19, 2020

The first dairy cow came to Jamestown in 1611. Did you know just like our pets, there are different breeds of dairy cows? Each breed has unique characteristics! Here a list of the six most popular dairy breeds (no specific order) in the United States! 

1. Jersey 

The Jersey cow originated in the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. Jersey cows are the smallest of all the breeds, weighing between 800 and 1200 pounds at maturity. They are light to dark brown in color and have large brown eyes. Jerseys produce the least amount of milk but where they lack in quantity they succeed in quality. Jersey milk is high in butterfat and protein. This breed adapts well to various climates! 

2. Holstein 

Holstein cows originated from the Netherlands and are known for their high milk production, averaging 22,530 pounds of milk a year. Holstein cows are a large breed with signature black and white or red and white markings. Each marking is unique. 

3. Brown Swiss 

Brown Swiss originated from Switzerland and is one of the oldest breeds. They range from a silver to dark brown color with large ears. Brown Swiss cows adapt well to hot and cold temperatures and are sound on their feet, making the breed a long-lasting productive animal. Their milk is good for making cheese. 

4. Guernsey 

Guernsey cows originated from Isle of Guernsey in the English Channel and are known for their yellow "golden" milk (high levels of vitamin A). They have a fawn (red-golden) coat with white markings. Guernsey cows tend to be docile and efficient grazers. 

5. Ayrshire 

Ayrshire cows are a large breed with a red and white coat. They originated from the Scottish County of Ayr. Ayrshire cows are adaptable to a variety of climates and can be found in many countries across the world. These cows are hardy animals and have easy calving traits. 

6. Milking Shorthorn 

The dual purpose Milking Shorthorn originated from Great Britain and was raised for meat and milk. Today the breed is divided into milking shorthorns and beef shorthorns. The large breed has a white and roan (red, black or brown) coat. As one of the oldest breeds, the milking shorthorn has a high protein content and is docile. 

 

Fun Facts: 

The first ice cream parlor opened in 1777. 

Cows are milked for 3-4 years on average. 

High producing cows can give 25 gallons of milk a day. 

Cows supply 90% of the world's milk supply. 

 

Sources: https://www.midwestdairy.com/education/farm-life/dairy-cows/ 

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