Let’s talk about dairy cattle breeds. So really in the US, there’s only six, arguably maybe seven major breeds that we milk on a regular basis. And we are going to look at 10 different breeds here. So the other three or four are basically less common. Definitely not used as much in the dairy industry, but still important for one reason or another. So we’re going to talk about one right away that you may have never heard of before. So number 21 is the American milking Devon. And this breed really isn’t used much anymore. However, it was absolutely probably the most important animal to early people living in the United States. The Pilgrims first brought this breed over, back in the 1700s. And they were used for milk and meat and as draft animals.
So they were the oxen that pulled the carts that ploughed the farms, they were actually the draft animal of choice that pulled waggons across the Oregon Trail, their hardiness and their usefulness made them a really essential breed too early Americans because you had a food source of both meat and milk, and you had a source of labour and transportation. Unfortunately, now there’s only about 500 to 1500 left in America, and they actually originated in England in Devon shear, hence their name, Devon. But they’ve been crossbred so many times there now that there are no purebreds left there at all. And in America, what happened was as the shorthorn breed gained in popularity, these devices became much rarer. And now they’re usually only found in New England, where the climate is too cold for short horns, and mostly at historical sites.
So Plymouth Plantation, Jamestown, that sort of thing, because that’s what that’s the cow that needs to be there for historical accuracy since that’s what those early colonies would have been raising in the 1950s. This breed was bred to increase its beef characteristics, and it wound up actually splitting so there is an actual beef Devins breed as well. And that was formed in 1978. For colours very similar to a red Angus or red pool, where there that dark red colour with the lighter muzzle and the lighter otter, and then they have black tips on their white horns and the horns kind of curl forwards and slightly up at the end. But you can see the black tip on there. They’re well adapted to low input management. So you don’t have to, you know, be taking care of them every day. They can kind of live on their own, and they’re good for harsh environments.
They’re medium size, so they’re smaller than a Holstein, but they are larger than a jersey. And their butterfat is actually pretty comparable to a jersey when they’re Milt. So with number 22, we’re going to get into one of those six most common breeds that we do have, and that is the air share. So the air share is a Scottish breed, it’s a red and white colour. And they are a little bit tough to tell apart sometimes from red and white Holsteins. So part of the way that I like to do that is I noticed that there spots so is kind of jagged edges. And that’s one way that you can tell them apart from their colours also a little bit more of a yellowy red. And their milk is referred to as the ideal drinking milk. So for that fluid milk market, it’s perfect.
It’s got a matte, moderate amount of butterfat and really high protein. The fat particles in Ayrshire milk are actually slightly smaller and they’re better distributed. So it’s actually easier to make this milk into cheese and yoghurt and ice cream and a lot of those dairy products. These guys are really efficient grazers. They’re known for being exceptionally resistant to stress. And one example of that is in 1929, they walked two of these cows from Vermont all the way to Missouri for a show. And then once they got there they have normally and they produce some of the most outstanding milk records that the country’s ever seen at that point. So really tremendously hardy cows.
They also naturally have horns that are usually a for longer, but they are usually D horned as calves because you can imagine a lot of cattle living together in close situations like that. They would actually hurt each other if they kept their horns and the bull calves for air shares make really good beef steers because they don’t get yellow tallow, so the fat doesn’t yellow and that actually would reduce the carcass quality if that happened. So they’re pretty good for beef. Another one of the major very breeds in the US is the Brown Swiss and these guys are from the Swiss Alps. So They thrive at high elevations, and they’re really resistant to extreme temperatures. This is the oldest of all the dairy breeds. And some people think it dates back as far as 4000 BC, they have the ideal milk for cheese because it has the perfect fat to protein ratio.
There, this greyish brown to tan colour, and they have a dark nose with a white muzzle surrounding it. So that’s one of the ways that you can pick them out. Otherwise, they can look similar to some of the jerseys and the Guernsey cows. So these guys are known for having a pretty docile temperament and being really inquisitive and curious. So they’re nice cows to have around. They have the second-highest annual milk yield as well. And they tend to be very large cattle. So this would be in the same size range as a Holstein. Hopefully, you remember number 24 from our section on beef breeds. So the shorthorn in here we call it the dairy shorthorn is really the same breed. Although depending on whether you wanted to keep a herd for beef or for dairy, you would probably try to breed for certain characteristics. So just like the beef, shorthorn, they come in red, red and white or Rhone. And this is a medium-sized cow.
They were originally dual purpose. And in 1958, these guys officially became a different breed from the beef variety of shorthorn, they’re easy to breed, they produce smaller calves than most cows. And that really leads to fewer complications, because there’s less to get kind of stuck in the birth canal. They also have really great reproductive efficiency, meaning that you can breed them quicker, and you don’t have to give them as long of drying off period in between. and they’ll still produce just as much milk. The bull calves make really profitable beef steers because of their beef history.
So there’s a really high salvage value when you do have bull calves born, and they’re significantly less prone to disease than Holsteins or other cattle because of that shorthorn background. They really feed efficient, and they have the lowest cost to raise out of any dairy cattle. So this can be really a profitable dairy breed, and it is one of our major ones still. The next one that we’re going to see is the Dutch felted. Sometimes this is called a lock-in valder. And that literally means that there’s a white cloth draped over their body. And that’s what lock and builder translate to. So these guys might look real similar to those belted Galloways that we saw with our beef breeds. And they come in the same colours. They’re either black or brown is a base coat with that white belt down the middle.
What’s kind of interested in interesting is that they’re really not related to the belt of Galloway at all. These guys come from the Netherlands. And they were bred by the Dutch specifically for this pattern because the Dutch were fascinated with this pattern. And they actually bred it into a lot of different animals. So you can find goats and pigs and rabbits that all have this particular marking. So for instance, Hampshire pigs have this belt on them. And that is just the duchas fascination with kind of these Oreo cookie looking coats. They’re also much larger than the belted Galloways and they have horns where the Galloway’s are pulled Galloway’s have that double coat that helps keep the warm Dutch belt to do not they would not do as well in the cold weather as that beef cow would.
And interestingly, PT Barnum, the big circus guy was one of the first importers of Dutch belted cows to the US, and he had a large herd that he’s showed off for their unusual colouring. The milk yield from these guys is comparable to Holsteins, but they’re not nearly as popular. Their milk is actually fairly easily digestible because it has small fat globules. They’re small bones, which makes for easy calving. And they are known for their longevity and fertility. So they’re able to have and be milked into their team so you can keep them around a lot longer. However, this is a critically endangered breed. There’s only 200 of them in the US. Mostly This is because the Dutch were resistant to sell their prized cattle. So the European stocks suffered. And then both World Wars really made that worse.
That was worse and even further by the USDA bio programme in the 1980s when 1000s of dairy cattle were sold for beef to reduce the herd size in an attempt to raise milk prices. So these guys really aren’t found as much anymore. Next on our list is the Guernsey which is named for an island that is one of the Channel Islands in between the coast of France and England in the English Channel. They are this Fon are reddish blonde colour and white and usually have patches on their body but you notice they’re much lighter tannish yellow in comparison to the air shares. currencies are known for extremely feeding efficient and they need 20 to 30% less feed than other breeds to produce the same amount of milk.
They reach reproductive maturity earlier, they have a higher heat tolerance, and they’re known for rich yellow coloured milk that’s really high in beta carotene. 60% of guernseys have a Kappa case and B gene, which produces excellent milk for making cheese has a firmer curd and better cheese characteristics. And this breed is becoming more popular now. As the US starts to reprioritize the quality of milk over just quantity. These guys are also very popular for crossbreeding, adding that hybrid vigour and some of those positive milk characteristics to other breeds. Probably the most important breed on our list is the Holstein Friesian. These are usually just called Holsteins. Holstein refers to stuff that is bred in North America.
And that Friesian ending is more commonly used when we’re talking about European stock instead, they are dutch and German in origin. They came from the freeze land area, and they’re black and white. Typically in that recognisable, Piebald pattern. They’re also much larger than other breeds. These guys are the number one breed dairy of dairy in the US, and they also provide a lot of our beef in our veal. They have a fairly low productive life, they typically only are kept until they are about six years, and they have low butterfat and low protein content. So not the highest quality milk However, they produce way more milk per year than any other breed and that’s why they are the backbone of our dairy industry at this point.
Another very popular breed is the jersey jerseys are much smaller cows, and you can say they come mostly in this light, tannish font colour, although they can get even up to like a dark brown colour, and some of them have quite a bit of gold in their coat. They are also named after one of the Channel Islands the island of Jersey, in between England and France. And they have a black nose with white surrounding the muzzle and white surrounding their eyes. They have a dark tongue and they have a dark switch at the end of their tail. They can easily be confused with the brand Swiss but they’re much much smaller, more delicate-looking cows overall. They also produce less milk overall than any other breed. However, they’re really efficient so they produce more milk for the cost of feeding the jersey since they eat a lot less.
Their milk is also nutritionally superior to other milk is 18% more protein 20% more calcium 25% more butterfat than the average milk. They are less susceptible to lameness, probably because of their smaller size, as well as they have black hooves and that black compound helps make the huff harder, their milk is often worth more than the Holsteins milk, and their feeds costs are less, they’re faster to mature, so that makes them more profitable. One of the issues with jerseys, however, is because they are so much smaller, a lot of existing dairy facilities really aren’t equipped for them. Because you need equipment that is suited to the size of this cow. Some people think that this could be the more sustainable future of dairy.
Because jerseys take 32% less water to maintain and require 11% less land, they produce less manure overall and use substantially fewer fossil fuels. So it actually results in a 20% reduction in the total carbon footprint that it takes to raise a Jersey cow compared to a Holstein. So jerseys have been gaining in popularity. And if they were to replace the Holstein in the American dairy herd that would be the equivalent of taking 443,000 cars off of the road. So that’s something that we do need to consider when we’re thinking about where the industry is going. So just to recap for a moment, our most common dairy breeds in the United States are jerseys, Holstein, Friesians, guernseys, dairy, short horns, brown, Swiss, and air shares. Those are the six that you’re most likely to see.
And then American milking devins. And Dutch belted as we’ve talked about so far that are fairly rare, and so is the next one that we’re going to talk about which are line backs. So this is number 29. It’s really unclear where line backs came from. They are definitely related to Holsteins, but It looks like they represent the melting pot that was early breeding here in the US. So these are called a landrace breed. And what that means is depending on where you go in the country, there are genetically distinct local populations. And then if you compare these line backs in one area of the country to linebacker and the other, they’re very, very different from each other. So that’s what a landrace breed is. They’re locally distinct.
And part of the reason that they’re so different from each other in different areas is these guys are really bred for their colour pattern more than anything else. So they don’t have other characteristics really in common so much as their colour. They have this distinctive skunk-like stripe along their back, where they’ll have a white area there. And then they have great a black on either side of their body, often with speckled edges around the outside, and that makes it look almost Roane. But it’s a totally different gene than arone. They can also come in red varieties, but this black and white variety is much more common. They’re traditionally dual purpose. So I and milk and they became less popular after world war two when cattle we’re all bred to be superior for one use, we want to just the best dairy cow or just best beef cow.
Now these line backs are often kept with dairy herds of other breeds, and sometimes those pets and we do have a couple in the local area a couple of dairies who keep them as part of their herd, they have moderate milk eels, and they also have kind of medium milk quality. So nothing really stands out because again, they were bred for their colour. Some of the varieties are now being bred more for beef. And one of the benefits of that is they do tend to be free of heavy extra muscular fat, that fat cap. And they have fine-grained ruby red coloured meat with a bright, rich, clean flavour. So a lot of times they are bred for grass-fed beef. registration fees have actually been reduced in the breed registry so that they’re trying to encourage more farmers to breed them. And since it is related to Holsteins, they continue to be cross-bred that way, and the last breed.
It’s not technically one of our big six in the US, however, it’s really kind of another form of Holstein, and that is our red and whites. So these are actually composite breeds. So they are Holsteins, combined with air share or shorthorn. And they’re usually bred so that you get a short horn-type cow, you get those advantages of the short born, but better milk production and that comes from the Holstein so they’re going to produce a lot more quantity of milk. The red and the red and white Holstein is actually a recessive gene. So the only way to keep ensuring that you get red and whites is to breed only red and whites to each other. If you breed them back to a black and white Holstein, then at least that first-generation you’re going to get all black and whites again. So red and white Holsteins used to be within the same breed registry as regular Holstein Friesians.
But then in 1964, the breed registry basically said we’re not going to accept any red and whites. In order to be a Holstein, they have to be black and white. So at that point, they became their own breed and they started their own registry. So they are the most recently recognised dairy breed since there, they’ve been around but they’re kind of new at just being considered Retton whites. Their size and their milk yield are really comparable to Holsteins. And for the most part, they’re pretty interchangeable with Holsteins. Physically red and whites are really hard to tell apart from air shares. So in addition to the kind of looking at their actual physical features, you want to make sure that you know some of the characteristics about them that will also be asked in the quiz because sometimes it’s almost impossible to tell them apart.
Guernsey’s can also be a little bit confusing, but Guernsey does tend to be a lighter tan has less red in the coat and it has more of a golden yellow. The other two that are easy to confuse are their brand Swiss and the jersey because their colour is so similar. With brand Swiss, there’s almost always more of a grey overtone to the coat. And then Jersey is really much more of a tannish colour or brownish colour usually. And then the other big difference, of course, is size jerseys are much much smaller than brown Swiss.