Dairy cattle mostly in 5 breeds

Milk. You use it to make puddings, ice cream and all kinds of goodies, but did you ever stop to think about where it comes from?

Depending upon where you live, the milk you drink probably comes from one of five common dairy cattle breeds.

Following is a brief description of each.


Originally from Scotland, Ayshire cattle are reddish-brown mahogany with white markings or white with reddish-brown mahogany markings. The mahogany varies in shades from light to dark.

Ayshire cows weigh around 1,200 pounds and bulls between 1,600 and 2,300 pounds. Recognized as the most beautiful of all the breeds, they have level rumps, nice udders and straight top lines.

Ayshire cattle are strong, efficient grazers and easy to raise. They do not produce as much milk or milk fat, however, as other breeds.

Brown Swiss

Brown Swiss cattle range in color from light fawn to black. Originally from Switzerland, their muzzles and dorsal stripes are light, while their horn tips, switches, tongues and noses are black.

The largest of all breeds, Brown Swiss cows weigh 1,200 to 1,400 pounds, and bulls, 1,600 to 2,400 pounds. They are quite meaty with large heads and bones. Brown Swiss cattle are gentle and quiet and easily managed. They graze well. Their milk contains about 4 percent fat.


Guernsey cattle range in color from light fawn to red, with white markings on their legs, switches, flanks and faces. Originally from France, the cows weigh about 1,100 pounds and the bulls about 1,700 pounds.

Guernsey cattle are rough over the rump and weak in the loin. Although alert and active, they are not nervous and therefore are easily managed. Guernsey cattle are excellent grazers. Their milk is high in quality with nearly 5 percent fat.


Holstein-Friesian cattle, originally from Holland, are black and white with white switches. Larger than most other breeds, the cows weigh about 1,500 pounds, and the bulls, about 1,800 pounds. Holstein-Friesian cattle are ruggedly built-their heads are long, straight and narrow and they have straight thighs and slightly rounded withers.

The cows are gentle and quiet, whereas the bulls can be vicious, making them somewhat harder to manage. Holstein-Friesian cattle require good pastures to graze well. Their milk is lower in fat than any of the other breeds’.


Originally from England, Jersey cattle range in color from light gray to very dark fawn or black. Some are solid, while others are spotted. Their tongues and switches may be black or white and their muzzles are black with a light ring.

The smallest of the breeds, Jersey cows weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds, and bulls, between 1,200 and 1,800 pounds. They have long, straight top lines, level rumps and good udders.

Although nervous and sensitive, the cows are gentle and sometimes make great pets.

The bulls, on the other hand, have the least gentle temperament of all the breeds and at times can be downright vicious.

Jersey cattle do well on good or poor pastures. They are easy to maintain. Their milk contains about 5.3 percent fat and almost 15 percent solids.

Now you know a little something about common dairy cattle. Bet you didn’t realize there were so many different breeds. There are some rare breeds, too, including the Dutch Belted and the Kerry.

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