Dairy Cows

Cow’s milk is the predominant source of dairy worldwide, owing to several factors. For starters, it tends to be more flavorful to most people compared to the milk of other animals. Additionally, cows consistently yield high quantities of milk daily compared to other milkable animals like goats (1-2 gallons), sheep (0.5-1 gallons), and camels (1.5 gallons). Most cow breeds are docile and do not resist being handled while being milked.

About 270 million cows are raised for dairy globally, with the United States raising around 9.4 million. The dairy landscape in the U.S. is dominated by six prominent breeds: Holstein, Brown Swiss, Jersey, Ayrshire, Guernsey, and Dairy Shorthorn. While there are several large dairy farms in the United States, like Rockview Family Farms, Riverview, and Faria Brothers, the largest is the Almarai farms in Saudi Arabia. As of the 2020s, it has 195,000 cows that produce 1.5 billion liters of milk annually.

The Evolution of Dairy Cattle Breeds

In the past, cattle were often raised both for their meat and milk simultaneously. Nowadays, specific breeds are selectively bred to produce milk for consumption. These dairy cattle have enlarged udders to maximize milk yield, as opposed to beef cattle, which prioritize muscularity over producing milk. However after their milk production declines, usually after a period of 5-6 years, dairy cattle are often processed into meat. They are generally made into ground beef due to their meat generally being of lower quality.

Dairy Cows

List of Dairy Cattle

Two pivotal factors need to be considered when rearing cattle for milk production. First, the daily milk yield helps assess the viability of raising cattle for dairy. Second, the duration of lactation indicates the number of days a cow can produce milk within a single cycle.

BreedsAverage Milk Production Per Day
(in gallons)
Lactation Period
(in days)
Brown Swiss5.3-9299-308
Australian Milking Zebu7.5-8296-305
Dairy Shorthorn5-6296-305
Danish Jersey5-5.4270-300
Illawarra Shorthorn4.9-5296-305
Lakenvelder 4-5300-305
French Simmental4.3-4.4296-305
Danish Red3.8-4270-280
Belgian Red3.6-4296-305
Tyrol Grey3.3-3.5296-305
Bianca Modenese2.3-3.2296-305
Estonian Red2.7-2.8296-305
Australian Friesian Sahiwal1.8-2.6267-302
Tipo Carora2.1-2.2296-305
Jamaica Hope1.9-2296-305
American Milking Devon1.5-2210-220
Red Sindhi1.1-1.5270-280


1. How many cows can be kept in a dairy farm?

Several factors must be considered when keeping cattle for dairy purposes, including farm size, the quality of land available, and the breeds kept. On average, a single cow requires about 2 acres of land to graze and move about. In the United States, about a herd of 300 cows is kept per farm.

2. How many times a day should a dairy cow be milked?

Most dairy cows can be milked twice a day, though some farms may even milk them three times in that period. However, this may stress the cattle due to an increase in the intensity of production.

3. Do dairy cows have to be pregnant to produce milk?

Dairy cows must deliver a calf every year to produce milk regularly. Usually, cows are artificially inseminated within three months after calving to continue production.

4. What is the best dairy cow for a beginner?

For beginners in dairy farming, a breed that is known for its docile temperament, adaptability, and ease of management would be ideal. These include the Jersey, Holstein, and Guernsey cattle.

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