Dairy Cows
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Varieties

According to the Breeds of Livestock Project undertaken by the Department of Animal Science at Oklahoma State University, the following breeds are kept in the U.S. primarily for use as dairy cattle: 

Ayrshire:  The Ayrshire breed originated in the County of Ayr in Scotland, prior to 1800. Ayrshires are red and white, and purebred Ayrshires only produce red and white offspring. Ayrshires are medium-sized cattle and should weigh over 1200 pounds at maturity. They are strong, rugged cattle that adapt to all management systems. Ayrshire cattle will do better under pasture conditions than will the other major dairy breeds and, when pastures are poor, they need less grain to keep them in fair condition. For more on the Ayrshire Breed see the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project. 

Brown Swiss:  Brown Swiss cattle first became prominent among dairy breeds about a 150 years ago in mountainous Switzerland. Around the turn of the last century, the breed was imported to the United States. The breed is known for its milk production, especially of milks suitable for exceptional cheeses. For more on the Brown Swiss Breed see the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project. 

Canadienne (also known by: Black Canadian, Canadian, French Canadian): Canadienne cattle were developed in Canada primarily from animals imported from Normandy and Brittany during the 16th and 17th centuries. The Canadienne is well adapted to the Canadian climate, soil and herbage and does not require the importation of expensive foods or intensive management. It is small (cows weigh 1000-1100 pounds), long-lived and has an exceptionally docile temperament. Canadiennes produce good quantities of quality milk in relation to their own body size and food requirements. The meat tends to be lean and with light bones. Canadiennes result in a high proportion usable meat per pound. For more on the Canadienne Breedsee the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project. 

Dutch Belted (also known as Lakenvelder):  The Dutch Belted breed is, according to records, the only belted breed of cattle tracing back directly to the original belted or "canvassed" cattle which were described in Switzerland and Austria. In the U.S., Dutch Belted Cattle are recognized as a dairy breed, and they have been extremely productive milk producers (and record holders for volume and butter fat production) since 1815. Some dairy men feel that Dutch Belted milk is more easily digestible due to its soft curd and high protein/fat ratio. Unfortunately due to cross breeding, the Dutch Belted is on the list of critically rare breeds of livestock in the North America, with fewer than 200 registered cattle in the country. For more on the Dutch Belted Breed see the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project. 

Guernsey: The tiny isle of Guernsey, off the English Coast, was the birthplace of the Guernsey Breed in about 960 A.D. when Robert Duke of Normandy sent a group of monks to educate the natives to cultivate the soil and defend the land. The monks brought with them the best bloodlines of French cattle - Norman Brindles, also known as Alderneys, and the famous Froment du Leon breed from Brittany - and developed the Guernsey. Today, the Guernsey Breed is known for producing high-butterfat, high-protein milk with a high concentration of betacarotene. Intermediate sized Guernseys produce high quality milk while consuming 20 - 30 % less feed per pound of milk produced than larger dairy breeds. The Guernsey is also an excellent grazer, made for pasture-based milk production. For more on the Guernsey Breed see the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project. 

Holstein (Holstein-Friesian): The Holstein Breed originated in what is now the two northern provinces of Holland, North Holland and Friesland with the black animals of the Batavians and the white animals of the Friesians, migrant European tribes who settled in the Rhine Delta region about 2,000 years ago. Holsteins are most quickly recognized as dairy cattle by their distinctive color markings and outstanding milk production. Average production for all Holsteins in official U.S. production-testing programs was 17,408 pounds of milk, 632 pounds of butterfat and 550 pounds of protein per year.  For more on the Holstein Breed see the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project.  

 Jersey: The Jersey breed name originated on the Isle of Jersey, in the English Channel, and is one of the oldest dairy breeds at more than 6 centuries but the animal itself can be traced back to 6,000 B.C. to the Middle East where they are probably descendants of the wild species Bos Primigenius (also known as Aurochs). Because of its Middle Eastern heritage, it is adaptable to a wide range of climatic and geographical conditions. Highly productive Jersey herds are found from Denmark to Australia & New Zealand, from Canada to South America, and from South Africa to Japan. Jerseys are excellent grazers and with an average weight of 900 pounds, they produce more pounds of milk per pound of body weight than any other breed. Most Jerseys produce far in excess of 13 times their bodyweight in milk. For more on the Jersey Breedsee the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project.

 Kerry: Kerry cattle are probably the progeny of Celtic Shorthorn cattle, brought to Ireland as long ago as 2000 B.C. The Kerry is a small-sized, mostly black, fine-boned dairy breed. Cows weigh between 780-1000 pounds and are horned. Milk production averages 7,000-8,000 pounds, but can occasionally exceed 10,000 pounds, with over 4% butterfat. By 1983 the world population of pedigreed Kerry cattle had dropped to around 200. The Irish Department of Agriculture has since taken steps to support the maintenance of the breed, and numbers are again creeping upwards. For more on the Kerry Breed see the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project. 

Milking Devon: The Devon is one of the oldest beef breeds in existence today (noted in Ancient Roman records from 55 B.C.), and some authorities consider the Devon's origin to be prehistoric, a direct descendant from Bos lonqifrons, the smaller type of aboriginal cattle once found in Britain. Most Devons world-wide are beef cattle but a Milking Devon, unique to America, has been preserved. The first Devon cattle reached Plymouth Colony in America in 1623. Devon cattle are red in color, varying in shade from a rich deep red to a light red or chestnut color. A bright, ruby-red color is preferred and accounts for their nickname, the "Red Rubies." Mature cows range in weight from about 950 to about 1300 pounds. For more on the Devon Breed see the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project. 

Milking Shorthorn: The small Celtic short-horned ox was found in England at the time of the Roman invasion and is thought to be the forebear of today’s Short Horn Breed. Our present Milking Short Horns stem largely from the efforts of Thomas Bates (18th Century) who stressed heavy milking qualities in the cattle he bred. For more on the Shorthorn Breed see the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project.

Norwegian Red: Using the classical definition the Norwegian Red cannot be considered a breed. It is an amalgamation used to develop a superior strain of dual-purpose cattle. Cows are selected for milking potential, rate of milk flow, and fertility. For more on the Norwegian Red Breed see the thorough listing at the Breeds of Livestock Project.