While The Dairy Alliance often lists the top 7 dairy cow breeds in the United States, they aren’t the only breeds used for dairy. These are the Holstein, the Red and White Holstein, the Jersey, the Ayrshire, the Brown Swiss, the Guernsey, and the Milking Shorthorn.
The Dairy Cow
There are breeds not as popular for dairy in the United States as they may be in other countries, or even in other industries. Don’t be surprised to find a cow that is not one of the 7 popular dairy cows. You may be informed that the red cow you spot in a field is called a Milk Devon. The Dutch Belted is called so because the cow looks like she has a thick white belt across the stomach. Or there’s the Lineback, which has a darker coat with white. However, this white appears more like lines than the black on Holsteins.
Of course, some breeds go by different names. For example, Holsteins, the iconic white and black spotted cows, are called Friesians outside of the Americas. The full name of the breed is the Holstein Friesian. While Americans shorten the name to Holsteins, others use Friesian as recognition of the Friesland province in the Netherlands where the breed originates. Over time, the American and European cattle have grown more distinct. One example is that the modern Friesians are slightly smaller than today’s Holsteins. So if you hear a farmer use the full name, it likely means the cow you see is a result of cross-breeding between a North American Holstein and a European Friesian.
On the next visit to your dairy farm, you’ll be able to spot some of the popular milking cows in the United States, but don’t be shocked if the farmer introduces you to another breed. Farmers have their own preferences for which cows they work with, so you may find your new favorite cow this summer.