Sunday, July 31, 2016

Dairy FAQ: Are all dairy cows black and white?

It's quite a lovely site. The picturesque view of black and white dairy cows on pasture as you drive by. We know that dairy cows and beef cows are very different, but are all dairy cows black and white?


Nope. There are six major breeds of dairy cattle in the United States. Seven according to World Dairy Expo, which places the red and white (more of a reddish-brown and white version of the typical black and white cows) Holsteins into their own class. The red gene is recessive in the Holstein breed, which is the most common of the dairy breeds and likely what you will see on most dairies you visit.

The six breeds are: Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey and Milking Shorthorn.

A Holstein with the traditional black and white markings

This is a Red and White Holstein. Photo credit: Stephanie Hammerly

The next most common is the Jersey. While Holsteins tend to be taller and produce more milk by volume, Jerseys produce lower volume and higher butter fat, which is great for making ice cream and cheese.

A Jersey grazing on pasture. Photo credit: Bradley Taylor.

Picking favorites within breeds can become quite the heated discussion with dairy folks.

Here are some photos of the other breeds.

My Guernsey yearling (basically a teenager), Jodie, getting ready for a 4-H dairy show back in the day.

This is one of the friendly Brown Swiss dairy cows Purdue University brought to the state fair last year.

A Milking Shorthorn calf. Photo credit: Stephanie Hammerly

Ayrshire dairy cattle grazing on pasture. Photo credit: U.S. Ayrshire Breeders Association.

Here's a better look at all six breeds: 


Learn more about each of the breeds by clicking on the bolded breeds below:
Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey, Milking Shorthorn

Next time you're at a county or state fair, try to pick out which dairy animals are of which breeds. 

2 comments:

  1. What a fun post! Especially for my "City Readers"! Thanks for posting at Country Fair Blog Party! Jan

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