Dairy Cows: Not Everything Is Black and White

I am one of the media photographer covering For the North American International Livestock Exposition held in Louisville KY.  One of great benefits of covering that event is being able to work with many university students who work as writers for the event. University of Ohio student, Courtney Tarvin submitted the following bit of information.

Dairy Cows: Not Everything Is Black and White by Courtney Tarvin

Louisville, KY – November 10, 2013 – When purchasing a carton of milk or ice cream, many people don’t think about the cow that produced the product, and the last thing to cross their mind is the cow’s breed.

Seven breeds of dairy cows showed at the North American International Livestock Exposition, each of which have various strengths and weaknesses. Breeds included at the North American International were Holstein, Red and White, Aryshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Jersey, and Milking Shorthorn. The North American International dairy show ranks as one of the largest in the World.

The most recognizable breed of dairy cattle is the Holstein. They are black and white, but there is also a recessive gene that causes some to be red and white. There is a separate division for red and white Holstein cattle. Holsteins are large farmed and known for their outstanding milk production. On average they produce 17,408 pounds of milk and 632 pounds of butterfat annually. They are originally from the Netherlands and were imported to the United States in 1852.


Ayrshire’s are dark red and white, they have different color patterns that vary from mostly red to mostly white, but originally were predominantly black. These dairy cows first came to the US in 1822 and today they are popular in New England. They produce on average 12,000 pounds of milk per year and a moderate fat content of 3.9 percent. These rugged cattle originally had long, upright horns, but today they are dehorned as calves.Ayshire


Brown Swiss cattle are solid brown varying from very light to dark. Originally from Switzerland, they were imported to the United States in 1869. Brown Swiss cows produce an average of 19,385 pounds of milk per year, and contain a high amount of butterfat and protein which makes their milk excellent for making cheese.

Brown Swiss

The Guernsey dairy cow is fawn in color with white markings. There has been over three million Guernsey’s registered in America since 1877. Guernsey cattle are known for producing high-butterfat and high-protein milk with a high content of beta-carotene, making their milk unique. They are also known for their efficiency since they are moderate in frame size and excellent grazers.


Jersey cattle typically are light brown to fawn in color with their face and switch being dark brown to black. These cattle are moderate in frame size and are known to be very docile. Jersey dairy cattle produce milk with high butterfat content, making their milk very valuable and commonly used for making ice cream.

JerseyMilking Shorthorn’s can be red, white, red-and-white, and also roan in color. They first came from England in the 1790’s. On average they produce 16,098 pounds of milk yearly. The milking shorthorn is the most versatile of all the breeds, as they can produce both milk and meat.

Milking Shorthorn

Dairy cattle all play an important role in our daily lives, whether we realize it or not. It is important to be knowledge about where our food products originate and the influence that each dairy cattle breed has on the food chain.

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