Types of Cows

There are six types of cows used for milking: Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey and Milking Shorthorn. The most common type of cow used for milking is the Holstein, because it produces the most milk.

  • Ayrshire: The Ayrshire is a reddish-brown and white cow that originated in the County of Ayr in Scotland. The breed has been around since before the 1800s. Different strains of local cattle were bred together to come up with the Ayrshire. These are medium-size cattle that weigh more than 1,200 pounds when they reach maturity. They prefer pasture conditions, even when feeding conditions are less than ideal. They produce moderate butterfat. Their average yearly yield is 12,000 pounds of milk. With good feeding, they can produce up to 17,000 pounds of milk per year, which nets about 700 pounds of butterfat.
  • Brown Swiss: The Brown Swiss is the oldest dairy cow breed. This cow's coloring ranges from light brown to dark brown, but they may also be gray. The Brown Swiss originated in the northeastern part of Switzerland. This breed produces an average of 22,000 pounds of milk (875 pounds of fat and 726 pounds of protein) every 305 days. The Brown Swiss does well in colder weather. Because of this, Brown Swiss milkers are popular in Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin.
  • Guernsey: The Guernsey produces milk that has a slight golden color. The cow is golden-brown with white patches. The Guernsey originates from the Isle of Guernsey, a small island in the English Channel, close to France. A Guernsey produces high-butterfat, high-protein milk that has a higher concentration of betacarotene than milk from other breeds. They adapt easily to warmer climates and do not have any known genetic problems. Farmers can reduce management costs with a herd of Guernseys because this breed produces better milk with extensive grazing. The Guernsey produces an average of 14,667 pounds of milk per year, which includes 659 pounds of butterfat and 510 pounds of protein.
  • Holstein: The common black-and-white Holstein is the most common dairy cow for farmers in warmer climates. The Holstein has a thin hide and does not do well in colder parts of the United States. This cow produces one of the highest amounts of milk. The average production of a Holstein is 17,408 pounds of milk, 632 pounds of butterfat and 550 pounds of protein per year.
  • Jersey: The Jersey cow is golden brown in color and has a distinctive black nose and black hooves. This dairy cow originated on the Island of Jersey, located in the English Channel, close to France. Jersey milk has the highest percentages of butterfat and protein. In one year, a Jersey will produce 16,539 pounds of milk, 765 pounds of butterfat and 591 pounds of protein. Although a Jersey produces less milk than some other breeds, the higher quality of the milk leads to a higher price for it per hundredweight.
  • Milking Shorthorn: The Milking Shorthorn is a medium size cow that sports red, white, red-and-white spots or may be roan. This cow originated in Northeastern England and was introduced to the United States in about 1783. In a year, a Milking Shorthorn will produce 15,000 pounds of milk, 500 pounds of butterfat and 465 pounds of protein. The higher protein-to-fat ratio of this cow's milk makes it very desirable at market. These cows are also known for their exceptional resistance to disease and their ease of reproduction.
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