Keeping dairy cows may be worth trying to expand the horizons of your homestead. The cows will supply you and your family with homegrown milk and dairy products while teaching your children valuable life lessons. In addition, owning dairy cows can provide a second source of income if you are interested in selling milk and dairy products at the market

However, before you purchase your first calf, you will need to consider what dairy cow breed will serve your needs best.

Here are some of the best dairy cow breeds for milk production.

leaves divider leaf

The 5 Best Dairy Cow Breeds for Milk Production

1. Holstein Dairy Cow

Image Credit: JACLOU-DL, Pixabay

The Holstein, also known as the Holstein-Friesians, is the most popular dairy cow breed. It is the highest milk-producing dairy farm animal in the world.

The Holstein breed originated in Holland, Netherlands, in the 1850s. It comes from the North Holland and Friesland provinces. There is a lineage known as Frisian in European countries, and in America, it is known as the Holstein Friesian.

A Holstein cow has two main types of fur. The first type, which is genetic dominance, has a mixture of black and white spots. The other less common type comes with red and white spots.

Holstein cows are known for their gentleness, sweet temperament, and strong herd following intuition. They are the giant breed of dairy cow, weighing about 1,500 pounds when mature. An adult bull is about 1.52 meters tall, and a female is around 1.45 meters.

This breed is characterized by being the heaviest dairy cow. They carry a large udder according to their vast production. Due to their dairy approach, Holstein’s body is wide at the back, curved, and has low musculature.

The Holstein breed is best adapted to cold or mild weather, but it is greatly affected in warm areas. However, the amount of milk they produce depends on various factors such as nutrition and the environment.

In systems with concentrated diets, a Holstein cow can produce an average of 10,000–12,000 liters of milk per lactation (305 days). And in forage-based diets, the milk production may be between 4,000–5,000 liters per lactation. That might also vary for tropical countries and Latin America, but it is the preferred breed of daily-producing cattle due to high production.

2. Jersey Dairy Cow

Jersey Cattle
Image Credit: Cameron Watson, Shutterstock

A Jersey is a breed of dairy cattle from Jersey Island, located in the English Channel between France and England. Their huge productive capacity allowed them to adapt well in the most productive countries, including New Zealand, Canada, and the US.

Jersey cows are small than other dairy cow breeds. They have a small head with wide eyes, a black snout, and a front slit. Regarding shape, a Jersey cow has refined angles that give it perfect proportions.

On average, a mature Jersey cow weighs between 900–1,000 pounds, and the height of a Jersey cow at the withers is 1.25 m.

Like Holstein, Jersey cows have an excellent conformation to support their udder. They have short hair, and their limbs are thin according to their lightweight. Thanks to their lightweight and long legs, this cow breed is quite docile to handle and best adapts to sloppy areas.

Jersey cows produce milk rich in protein, fat, and total solids, translating into high-quality milk and a better selling price. These productive benefits are better values due to their excellent conversion with a diet based on pasture and fodder. In addition, a Jersey cow adapts well to different types of climates and soil but is very resistant to moderate heat.

On average, a Jersey cow can produce up to 10,000 liters of milk per lactation. In tropical and large area conditions, their milk production range between 5,000–6,000 liters per lactation.

Jerseys’ milk is rich in fat, particularly fatty blood cells, making it a perfect source for dairy products such as cheese. In some countries, this advantage is translated to a better selling price.

3. Brown Swiss Dairy Cow

brown swiss cattle
Image Credit: Meli1670, Pixabay

Considered the oldest breed today, Brown Swiss cows originated from Switzerland and arrived in America in 1869. It is the second-highest lactation-producing cow after the Holstein breed.

As their name suggests, Brown Swiss cows feature dark brown color hair. Its fur is thin and short. Due to its adaptability to the Swiss Alps, Brown Swiss has perfect leg conformation, making it rustic on steep terrain.

Brown Swiss cow is a medium-sized breed and weighs between 1,300–1,400 pounds. It best adapts to the environment ranging between 0 to 3,600 meters above sea level. Its physical shape gives it excellent strength and support according to its large production.

Being the second-highest milk-producing breed, a Brown Swiss cow can produce between 10,000 to 12,000 liters per lactation. In addition, they are the cow breed that produces milk with the highest number of total solids and proteins. Brown Swiss cows have an excellent conversion even when you feed them with a fodder diet.

4. Normande Dairy Cow

Normande cow
Image Credit: JanNijman, Pixabay

The Normande cow breed acquired its name from a region in France called Normandy. The breed was obtained in the 19th century after crossing several breeds. Normande cows are a dual-purpose breed mainly kept for milk production and are best adapted to tropical countries.

Normande cows feature white fur with colored spots, including dark brown, reddish or yellowish. They have a large head with patches around their eyes, giving them the glasses look and a dark snout.

Normandes are a medium-frame size breed and can weigh between 1,200–1,500 pounds. The weight is due to their dual-purpose status.

The breed is characterized by its broad chest and abdomen, giving it a solid, rectangular look. It has excellent leg conformation and a strong musculature necessary for meat production. A Normande cow is strong and broad, giving good adaptation to milk production in large quantities.

Considering their dual-purpose phenotype, Normande cows are excellent milk producers. They can produce between 6,000–7,000 liters of milk per lactation. In addition, their milk is rich in protein and fat, which offer the advantage of cheese and butter production.

5. Simmental Dairy Cow

Simmental Cattle close up
Image Credit: Smirre, Pixabay

The Simmental cattle breed is a dual-purpose cow suitable for meat and milk production. However, with the introduction of new agricultural techniques in recent years, the Simmental breed has been improved genetically to become a good milk producer. These cattle breeds have a mixed conversion and milk production yield, making this cow the best in its field, better than other types with the same characteristics.

Simmental color varies from red to gold with white and can be evenly distributed or clearly defined in spots on a white background. The head is white, and a white band usually appears over the shoulders. Most cows have pigment around the eyes, helping to reduce eye issues that occur due to bright sunlight.

They have a large frame with excellent muscling with the cow about 135–150 cm at the withers. The weight of a Simmental breed can vary on its use, but the cow can weigh about 2,100 to 2,500 pounds.

Since they are a dual-purpose breed with the highest fertility performance in milk production, Simmental cows are good milk producers. On average, they can produce about 9,000 liters per lactation.


Final Thoughts

Some dairy cow breeds have efficiently specialized in milk production. Cattle breeds of European origin have spread across the world due to their numerous characteristics and benefits.

Each dairy cow breed comes with unique strengths and weaknesses that may play in your favor or work against you, depending on your homestead, your land and resources, and your requirements. The cow breeds mentioned above are perfect for homesteaders. Some need prior cow handling experience, but others don’t and are easy to handle.

However, keep in mind that milk production is linked to the environment where a cow stays. Factors that determine a cow’s milk production include temperature, soil type, soil inclination, forage of the region, luminosity, and rainfall.

Related Read: Do Cows Make Good Pets?

Featured Image Credit: Alexander Chaikin, Shutterstock