Cattle breeding is an important part of the dairy industry.
Just as the beef industry breeds cows for desirable traits like good growth and marbleized meat, cattle breeding is also of great importance to the dairy industry. There are many different breeds of dairy cattle, and they each have their own strengths and advantages that are essential to the dairy industry. Explore some of the more common dairy cow breeds, and learn the details of breeding in the dairy industry, below.
Dairy Industry Details
Much of the dairy industry utilizes artificial insemination for breeding due to the many advantages of the process. For one, a dairy farmer can know for sure that all of the cows have been bred, and the use of certain techniques can actually increase pregnancy rates. That equates to a higher birth rate for the herd, and a higher milking rate for the dairy farm’s bottom line.
Another advantage is the availability of bulls of high genetic merit to all breeders. However, utilization of a few, genetically superior sires could lead to a reduction in the genetic base. To combat this, the artificial insemination industry and dairy cattle breeders should try to sample as many young sires as they can.
Breeds of Dairy Cattle
There are many different breeds of cattle raised for dairy but only a handful that are most commonly used in the U.S. Many of the others are “heritage” breeds—breeds that were more popular in the past, but aren’t as much anymore—and breeds that are more common in other countries.
The following are five of the most popular dairy cow breeds with the dairy industry currently, according to an article by The Dairy Farmers of Washington:
- Holsteins. These black-and-white cows are the most common dairy cow in the U.S, and they are the breed that springs to mind when most people think of dairy cows. Holsteins’ markings are so distinctive that they are as unique as fingerprints, and they can sometimes be brownish red-and-white rather than black. This breed is popular because the cows typically produce more milk than any other type of dairy cows.
- Jerseys. These soft-eyed cows feature a tawny-brown hide with light-colored legs and underbelly. They are so-named because they originated in the Isle of Jersey in Britain. They are the best cows for giving milk to make cheese and butter because their rich milk has the highest concentration of butterfat.
- Guernseys. This breed of reddish brown-and-white cows gives off a golden-hued milk, earning them the nickname “the Royal Breed.” Their milk is high in beta-carotene, which turns to vitamin A.
- Ayrshires. Another breed with reddish-brown with white markings, they tend to have many spots. They hail from Ayr, Scotland, and they came to America in the early 1800s. Ayrshires produce quality milk that is highly regarded for manufacturing.
- Brown Swiss. Having roots in Switzerland, this breed of dairy cows is one of the oldest. They are a grayish brown, and they have big, furry ears. They have a reputation for being very gentle dairy cows. Their milk is great for cheese making because of its ideal fat to protein ratio.