There are many breeds of cows throughout the world, however, I think two are more recognisable than most, particularly in the United Kingdom.
These are the Holstein Cow (which is the most popular) and the Jersey Cow.
The Holstein Cow is the most popular cow and is coloured black and white. Holstein cows are the ones you are most likely to see in British countryside fields. Holstein cows each have a unique, black and white patched hide. No two cow hides are ever the same.
A mature Holstein cow stands around 58 inches tall and weighs 1500 pounds. A Holstein calf weighs between 80 and 110 pounds at birth. The productive life of a Holstein cow is between 3 and 6 years. Most dairy farmers use Holstein cows for milk production because they are bigger and better cows.
Jersey Cows are either solid brown, fawn or brown splashed with white. Jersey Cows are typically the shade of fawn, however, can vary in colour, although their underneath is often a lighter shade. The Jersey Cow originated from the small British Island of Jersey in the English Channel. The Jersey Cow is one of the oldest dairy cows and has been pure-bred for over six centuries.
The cattle on the Island of Jersey were once known as Alderney Cattle, however, they were later referred to as just Jersey Cows. Most Jersey Cows have a broad face with prominent eyes. Jersey Cows can tolerate the heat more than other cows and are therefore found in warmer climates around the world. They are excellent grazers and have an average weight of around 900 – 1200 pounds.
Bulls are also small, ranging from 1200 to 1800 pounds (540 to 820 kg), and are notoriously aggressive.
Even though Holstein cows are mainly used for dairy produce, Jersey cows are high milk produces and can produce 13 times their own body weight in milk. The milk from a Jersey Cow is very rich in butterfat and protein. Like all other cows, Jersey Cows spend 6 hours a day eating and 8 hours a day chewing cud.
The Ayrshire cow is another breed of dairy cow which originates from Ayrshire in Scotland. The average mature Ayrshire cow weighs 1000 – 1300 pounds. Ayrshire cows have distinct red markings which can be an orange to a dark brown colour, with or without coloured legs.
Ayrshire cows are known for low somatic cell counts, ability to convert grass into milk efficiently and hardiness. The Ayrshire cows’ strong points are the now desired traits of easy calving and longevity.
The Ayrshire cows are also known as Dunlop cattle or Cunninghame cattle. Ayrshire cows were exported to all parts of the world and extensive cattle docks used to exist at Cunninghamhead station for loading and export purposes.
Brown Swiss Cow
The Brown Swiss Cow is a breed of dairy cow that produces the second largest quantity of milk per year. Their milk contains on average 4% butterfat and 3.5% protein, making their milk excellent for production of cheese. The Brown Swiss Cow is known for its long gestation period, immense size, large furry ears and an extremely docile temperament.
However, the Brown Swiss Cow is quite a resilient breed of cattle. Brown Swiss Cows are hardy and capable of exisitng with little care or feed. The Brown Swiss Cow originated on the slopes of the Alps in Switzerland and because they were bred in this harsh climate, they are resistant to the heat, cold and many other common cattle problems.
The conventional breed known as Brown Swiss cow is actually quite different from the original Schwyzer Braunvieh cattle cultivated in northern Italy and southern Germany around the end of the 17th and 18th centuries. When imported to America in the early 1800s many dairymen complained that the Brown Swiss appeared to be nothing more than another variety of Jersey cattle and the strain was subsequently bred for size to differentiate them more clearly.
The Guernsey cow is a breed of cow used in dairy farming. The Guernsey cow is cream and brown in colour and is particularly renowned for the rich flavour of its milk, as well as its hardiness and docile disposition. As its name implies, the Guernsey cow was bred on the British Channel Island of Guernsey.
The Guernsey cow is believed to have descended from two breeds brought over from France; the Isigny cattle from Normandy and the Froment du Léon from Brittany. The Guernsey cow weighs 450 to 500 kilograms, slightly more than the average weight of the Jersey cow which is around 450 kg (1000 pounds). The bull weighs 600 to 700 kilograms which is small by standards of domestic cattle, but they can be surprisingly aggressive. The Guernsey cow has many notable advantages for the dairy farmer over other breeds. These include immunity to disease, high efficiency of milk production, low incidence of calving difficulty and longevity.
All cows have a unique hide pattern, no two patterns are ever the same.