Skip to Content

5 Best Dairy Cow Breeds

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclaimer for additional details.

There are numerous dairy cow breeds. But choosing the right one for your farm has great importance. Every cow breed has different milk production ratios. The percentage of milk fat and solid may also vary. In such a case knowing the characteristic traits of every breed is the right way to go about it.

For starting a dairy farm you must be familiar with dairy cow breeds, their requirements, their temperament, and space needs. Dairy goat breeds can also do well for a small farm or homestead.

Here are the five best cow breeds to consider for your farm:

1. Holstein

Holstein cow grazing on green grassy meadow in hillside

The most famous dairy cow breed is the Holstein. While this breed is commonly called the Holstein, the full breed name is Holstein Friesian.

Originating in the Netherlands, the Holstein breed was imported from Holland in the 1850’s. From then on, the Holstein Friesian cow became a popular breed in America as well. Around 90% of dairy cows in America are of Holstein breed.

These are mostly black and white with some white and red exceptions. All black ones are the rarest. Their gentle temperament is a traits making it liked by all. These are usually very gentle and herd following in nature and loving and easy to handle.

They can weigh up to 1388 pounds when mature. Holstein’s milk is very rich in nutrients but the lowest in fat. Their yield is greater than any other breed at around 17,000 pounds per year. The fittest cows can be milked three times a day.

They also have an excellent conception rate. Their calves are fast-growing and easy to raise. They can weigh around 88 pounds at birth which is great as compared to other breeds. Holsteins can be grazed at different grazing systems.

2. Jersey

Light brown Jersey dairy cow with ear tag on meadow

Originating in the Isle of Jersey, Great Britain, Jersey is also an excellent dairy cow breed. They came to America in the 1860’s.

In size, the Jersey breed is a little smaller than other breeds. Cows reach around 4 feet in height at the wither and can weigh up to 880 pounds when mature.

Their coat color comes in tans and browns of fawn color, with black or brown noses. Jerseys are also very friendly cows and get along very well. Jersey cows are sweet and curious. Females are very docile but the bulls can be quite the opposite.

They are a little unpredictable and can be quite aggressive at times especially when mature. Jerseys are famous for their high grass to milk conversion ratio. Their milk has the most butterfat and protein content as compared to other cow breeds.

That is what makes their milk perfect for making cheese and butter. They can produce around 6 gallons of milk on a great day. They can adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions. Jerseys are also very fertile making them a popular dairy breed.

3. Brown Swiss

swiss cow in the field

Originating from Switzerland, Brown Swiss is the third breed on our top 5 dairy cow breed list. It was in the late 1800’s when Brown Swiss came to America.

Known for their big furry ears, Brown Swiss is a greyish brown color. Although slow to mature, they can reach up to 1500 pounds when mature.

This is a good breed in terms of milk production. Brown Swiss cows can produce 2200 pounds of milk per year. Because of its highly nutritious milk, the Brown Swiss is a favorite breed for dairy farm owners.

Brown Swiss cows make the best milk for cheese and butter. Their milk has the best fat to protein ratio out of all the dairy cow breeds.

When taking a look at the temperament of Swiss Brown, you will see how adaptive they are to different climatic conditions. Their adaptive nature makes them perfect for the farmers.

Although late to mature, Swiss Brown cows have long productive lives. They reach their peak in the fifth or later lactations which is difficult for other breeds. The Swiss Brown cow is strong and sturdy and offers greater longevity as compared to other dairy cow breeds. 

4. Guernsey

Guernsey Cattles in the field on a sunny day

Originating from the Isle of Guernsey, the Guernsey breed is a close relative of the Jersey breed. This breed also came to America in the late 1800’s like many other breeds. The shade of Guernsey fluctuates from yellow to rosy brown with white patches.

They have a finely tuned demeanor, not anxious or peevish. Generally, the variety has great dairy conformity and presents the visual impression of a plain creature reproduced for utility as opposed to great looks.

Guernsey cows typically weigh 992 to 1102 pounds; somewhat more than the Jersey cow which is around 1000 pounds.

The reason behind its popularity is the creamy golden milk it produces. Because of this, it is also known as the Royal Breed. It is usually brown and white. Not having suitable production rates for a commercial farm, Guernsey is one of the rarest breeds in America.

Guernsey cows are perfect for a small farm where hand milking is preferred. Its highly nutritious milk with high butterfat content makes it the best among many dairy breeds. Out of many nutrients its milk has, beta carotene is a prominent one, something that isn’t present in milk from goats or sheep.

Their high feed to milk conversion ratio makes many dairy farmers interested in this breed. By consuming less feed it can produce milk in greater amounts as compared to other cow breeds.

5. Ayrshire

ayrshire cow on the meadow

The Ayrshire is a bigger type of dairy cow. Evaluated one of the greatest dairy cow breeds at 1000 to 1300 pounds at development. The yield falls between a Holstein and a Jersey. The Ayrshire is a lovely blend of white with earthy colored markings and all-white is allowable.

Initially from Scotland, the variety was created from the cautious intersection of many varieties, including Holstein. The variety is extremely fiery and tough and the calves are solid.

This is a variety that is famous for meat from the cows. The normal 1200-pound cow will deliver as much as 17,000 pounds of milk each year.