When most consumers think of a dairy cow, they think of Holsteins. Although the Holstein
is the most popular breed, there are actually several types of milking cows found in Wisconsin. Here is some basic information
on the different cow breeds.
they can be found with red-and-white coloring, the black-and-white Holsteins are the most popular milk cows in Wisconsin.
More than 90 percent of all dairy cattle in Wisconsin are Holsteins. The Holstein's popularity stems from its ability to produce
more milk than any other breed. The
breed originated in northern Holland and Friesland. Beef from Holsteins is becoming quite
popular due to the increase in demand for lean beef.
Guernsey: Guernseys are called "the Royal Breed"
because their milk is almost gold in color. Guernseys were first raised by monks on the Isle of Guernsey. They are a shade
of fawn (brownish), either solid or with white markings.
Swiss cattle breed is one of the oldest in existence and native to Switzerland. During the summer, the cows are taken to high
mountain meadows where they roam free and graze. Brown Swiss still wear cow bells so farmers can find them in foggy mountain
pastures. This breed is heavier-boned
than other dairy breeds and produces milk with average butterfat content. Brown Swiss vary
in color from light brown to dark brown or sometimes gray.
Ayrshire: Ayrshires originated in the county of
Ayr in Scotland. They are reddish-brown with many spots.
They first came to America in 1822. They are less popular in Wisconsin than the other breeds.
Shorthorns are from northeastern England and best known for their versatility.
They efficiently convert feed to milk but are also very good meat animals. The Milking Shorthorn
has short horns and a stocky build. Their color ranges from red to red-and-white to roan color.
Jersey: The Jersey cow produces milk very high
in butterfat that is desirable for the making of butter. They originated on the Channel Island of Jersey. The Jersey cow tends
to be a golden-brown color with a black nose and black hooves. Jerseys are the smallest of all dairy breeds and have large,
Dairy Cow Facts
• Cows did not always look like they do
today – or produce as much milk. They used to roam wild and early humans hunted them for food.
• Later, people began domesticating cows
and milking them. People also began to raise calves, which meant they didn’t have to hunt for more wild cows.
• Man milking cows is mentioned 44 times
in the Old Testament of the Bible.
• Christopher Columbus brought the first
dairy cow to America on his second voyage. Early settlers brought dairy cows to Wisconsin.
• Each of the six breeds of dairy cattle
– Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey and Milking Shorthorn – developed in its own country.
• Brown Swiss is the oldest breed and
developed in the Swiss Alps. During the summer, the cows are taken to high mountain meadows where they roam free and graze.
Brown Swiss still wear cow bells so farmers can find them in foggy mountain pastures.
• Guernseys are called “The Royal Breed” because Guernsey
milk is almost gold in color. Guernseys were first raised by monks on the Isle of Guernsey. They are a shade of fawn (brownish),
either solid or with white markings.
• Jerseys come from the Isle of Jersey,
very close to the Isle of Guernsey. Jerseys are the smallest of all dairy breeds, with large brown eyes. They vary in color
but are generally brown, sometimes with white markings.
• Ayrshires originated in the county of
Ayr in Scotland. They are reddish brown with a lot of spots. They first came to America in 1822. They are less popular in
Wisconsin than the other breeds.
• Holsteins (or Holstein Friesian) originated
in the Netherlands. Dutch settlers probably brought the first Holstein cattle to America about 1621. More than 90% of all
dairy cattle in Wisconsin are Holsteins. Although most Holsteins are black and white, there are some of red-and-white color.
• Milking Shorthorns are from northeastern
England and best known for their versatility. They efficiently convert feed to milk but also are very good meat animals.
• Cows have an acute sense of smell –
they can smell something up to six miles away.
• An average dairy cow weighs about 1,400 pounds.
• Cows can live to be about 18 years old,
but a normal productive life for a Holstein is around six years.
• A newborn calf weighs 90 pounds and
can walk on its own one hour after birth.
• Cows spend an average of six hours each
day eating and an additional eight hours ruminating and chewing their cud. Most cows chew at least 50 times per minute.
• Cows graze by curling their tongues
around grass and pulling rather than nibbling it like a horse does.
• Cows have four stomach compartments
and consume about 90 pounds of feed every day. They also drink the equivalent of a bathtub full of water – about 25
to 50 gallons – every day.
• If people ate like cows, they would
have to eat about 360 cheeseburgers and drink 400 to 800 glasses of water every day.
• Contrary to popular opinion, cows sleep
lying down – just like people!
• A Wisconsin dairy cow produces an average
of five to seven gallons of milk each day. That’s more than 100 eight-ounce glasses of milk.
• There are approximately 340 to 350 squirts
in a gallon of milk.
• Wisconsin is home to more than 1.2 million dairy cows.