A breed is a homogenous group of animals of the same species with similar characteristics that can interbreed to produce a viable offspring. Dairy cattle breeds are therefore a group of cattle bred specifically for milk production. Below are some of the popular and most preferred dairy cattle breeds kept by farmers worldwide.

Holstein Friesian cattle

Holstein Friesian(HF) is the world’s highest yielder among the dairy cattle breeds. The breed originated from Germany, Netherlands, and Denmark. It is now distributed worldwide. The breed is popularly known as Holstein Friesian. In the UK the name is shortened as Friesian while in North America, it is called Holstein. It has distinctive black and white color and occasionally red and white. The white and red are mainly due to recessive genes.

Characteristics of Holstein Friesian Dairy breed

  • Coat color is black with white patches. Some are red with white patches
  • A mature cow weighs 660-770kgs.
  • A calf weighs 40-50 kg at birth when healthy.
  • mature bull weighs an average of 900kg
  • Highest milk producer in the world, averaging 30500kg per annum. It produces milk with 3.5% butterfat content making it the most popular compared to other dairy cattle breeds
  • Usually, calve at about 23-26 months of age
  • Under good management conditions, the breed produces 30-45 liters a day, up to 60 liters a day has been recorded.

The breed is not capable of withstanding unstable weather conditions and prevalence of diseases, it, therefore, calls for high management standards. It is known for producing rapidly growing, easy to manage and early maturing that if taken good care of display no fertility related problems.

Ayrshire Cattle Breed

Originated from Ayrshire, southwest Scotland around 1800. The breed brides itself in superior qualities among them longevity and easy calving, hardiness and its high efficiency in converting grass to milk. its milk quality ranks high compared to other breeds.

Characteristics of Ayrshire dairy cattle breed

  • its coat color is red with white marking. The red color can sometimes vary from light to dark red.
  • Medium sized cattle with an average mature adult weight of about 540kg and males weigh 640-900kg.
  • Average milk production is about 18500kg per lactation with 3.9% butterfat content.
  • It has a high ability to adapt to different environments and climatic conditions.
  • The breed responds positively to good feeding and management practices.
  • Ayrshire calves are usually strong and easy to raise.

Guernsey Breed

Guernsey Cattle Breed
Guernsey Cow

The breed originated from the channel island of Guernsey. It is, therefore, one of the three channel island breeds of cattle. its coat color is red or fawn and white in color. The breed is distributed worldwide. Guernsey first became popular among the dairy farmers at around 18th century. Since then, it has been bred across centuries to meet dairy requirements and standards and improvements are still going on in order to remove faults and make it the best dairy breed. Her golden yellow milk gives it a unique position among the dairy breeds, with some farmers nicknaming her the “Golden Guernsey”.

Characteristics of the guernsey dairy cattle breed

  • Medium sized breed with cows weighing 450-500kg and bulls 600-700kg.
  • It has fawn and white or red and white coat color with some being pure fawn or red.
  • Has low calving difficulty and good longevity.
  • It has a high ability to utilize poor quality pastures and graze well.
  • its small size makes it an efficient milk producer hence favored by farmers.
  • It is a horned breed.
  • It produces milk with rich flavor, golden yellow in color due to ß-carotene.
  • its milk production is about 6000 liters annually with 5% butterfat content and protein content of about 3.7%.

Jersey Dairy Cattle Breed

Jersey dairy breed is a small breed of cattle, originally bred in the channel island of Jersey in England, off the coast of France. It is one of the oldest breeds in history, being known in England in early 1771 and was introduced in the US in the 1850s. The Jersey breed is highly adapted to a wide variety of geographical and climatic conditions. it has a small body makes it easy to support. The breed is popular for its high milk fat content. It is an excellent grazer being able to utilize poor quality pastures and performs highly in intensive rearing programs. It more heat tolerant than other dairy breeds. Purebred jerseys have black hooves, dark tail switch and lighter color around the muzzle. The breed is now distributed worldwide.

Characteristics of the breed.

  • High fertility.
  • Produces milk with a high butterfat content of about 4.8% and protein content of 3.9%.
  • It is a small breed with mature cows weighing 400-500 kg and bulls weighing 540-820 kg.
  • It calves easily with low rates of dystocia.
  • Has a fawn coat color.
  • The breed has distinct characteristics that are: protruding eyeballs and slightly dished face.
  • Cows are docile and calm but the bulls are very aggressive.

Brown Swiss Cattle Breed

The breed originated from Switzerland on the slopes of Alps around 4000BC. Today, the cattle breed is distributed worldwide and has an estimated population of around 7 million, ranking it the second highest number of dairy cattle breed on the globe.

Characteristics of the breed            

  • its coat color range from greyish fawn, light brown, tan to nearly white.
  • Muzzles, hooves and tail switch are usually black.
  • They are known for their docile and friendly temperament.
  • They are more resistant to harsh climatic conditions like heat and cold.
  • Produce milk with an average of 4% butterfat content and 3.5% protein content; with these properties, their milk is excellent for cheese production.
  • Brown Swiss produces 9000 kg of milk annually.