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Chapter 9 Dairy cattle.

Chapter Objectives

* Learn the primary breeds and origins of dairy cattle

* Learn the states that are primarily involved in the dairy industry

* Be familiar with the primary products of the dairy industry

Cattle have been dual-purpose animals through much of human history. Farmers owned cattle that produced both meat and milk for market, and were often also used as draft animals. In the mid-nineteenth century, breeders began focusing on developing the milk and meat production characteristics of their cattle. Dairy production is part of animal agriculture in all 50 states, but California has the most cows, and produces the most pounds of fluid milk. Long known as "America's Dairyland," Wisconsin was the leading state in fluid milk production until the 1990s, and is still the leading state in regard to production of manufactured milk products, such as cheese and butter. However, the gap is closing, and California may surpass Wisconsin in the production of manufactured milk products soon. In general, dairies are numerous in states with large populations due to the need to get fluid milk processed and to the stores as quickly as possible. Following California and Wisconsin in annual milk production (2006) are New York, Pennsylvania, and Idaho. The dairy industry comprises approximately 11 percent of the total income generated by agriculture, for a value of approximately $22 billion in 2004, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Most dairy operations (almost 80 percent) have fewer than 100 cows, and many are still family-owned businesses (see Figure 9-1).


The dairy industry in the United States is focused on only a few breeds of cattle. Although many commercial dairy cattle are not registered, most are purebred. Each breed has different strengths and differences in the components of the fluid milk produced. The end product of the milk is one of the determinants in choosing the breed to milk. Breeds that produce milk higher in butterfat and proteins may be selected for producing milk sold for processing, whereas producers selling fluid milk choose breeds that produce a higher volume of milk. Table 9-1 shows the differences in the volume of milk produced annually, and milk components for the major breeds. Dairy breeds are often named for the country, or region, or origin. The following is a list of the major breeds used in the United States dairy industry.


The following are British breeds of dairy cattle:

Ayrshire (air-shi-r) This breed was developed in Scotland in the late 1700s and was imported into the United States in the 1800s. Ayrshires are red and white, with the shade of red ranging from brown to mahogany. They should have sharp lines between the red and white patches on the hide. Roaning, the mixing of red and white hairs, is undesirable.

Animals are of moderate size, and should reach approximately 1,200 pounds at maturity. Ayrshires used to be known for their distinctive horns, which curved up and toward the back; however, now virtually all animals are dehorned. The cattle were developed to produce efficiently in the sometimes-harsh Scottish climate, and modern Ayrshires still have an ability to forage well. Ayrshires are also known for having exceptionally sound mammary glands, and feet and legs. Ayrshires are registered with the American Ayrshire Association (see Figure 9-2)



Guernsey (gurn-ze) The Guernsey was developed on the Isle of Guernsey in the English Channel from foundation stock of French cattle around A.D. 960. Guernseys were introduced into the United States in the 1830s, and are moderate producers of milk with a unique golden color. Guernseys are a medium-framed breed, with a golden and white coat color. Guernseys are second only to Jerseys in the amount of fat produced in the milk, and are popular with people wishing to make cheese and butter from milk. The American Guernsey Association registers Guernsey cattle (see Figure 9-3).

Jersey (jer-ze) The Jersey was developed on the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. The precise foundation stock is unclear, but in 1763, law forbade the importation of cattle to the isle, resulting in the development of this breed. The Jersey is the smallest of the dairy breeds, with a mature weight of around 900 pounds. They are a light fawn to black color with a distinctively dished face and large dark eyes. Jerseys are very attractive cattle with excellent udder conformation and dairy quality. They also use feed very efficiently. They produce the highest volume of milk per pound of animal weight of any of the dairy breeds. Jerseys are fifth of the six primary breeds in regard to total volume of milk produced, but they are significantly higher in butterfat production than the other breeds, which is important for butter and cheese production. Jerseys have more excitable temperaments than the other dairy breeds, and this is especially true of Jersey bulls, which have earned a reputation for being difficult to handle for even the most experienced dairymen. Jerseys can be registered with the American Jersey Cattle Club (see Figure 9-4).

Milking Shorthorn The Shorthorn breed was developed in the seventeenth century in northern England, where they were originally known as Durham cattle. The breed was developed as a dual-purpose breed, for both meat and milk production, and was introduced to the United States in 1783. The cattle are red, white, or roan, or a combination of the colors, and bulls weigh up to 2,400 pounds. The foundation Shorthorn was developed into two breeds: the beef qualities were emphasized to develop the Shorthorn, and the milk-producing qualities were emphasized to produce the Milking Shorthorn breed. Milking Shorthorns can be registered by the American Milking Shorthorn Society or in the American Shorthorn Association.


Continental Breeds

The following are continental breeds of dairy cattle:

Brown Swiss The Brown Swiss was developed in Switzerland, and is believed to be one of the oldest breeds of dairy cattle. Brown Swiss cattle were initially bred as dual-purpose animals, and their size and strength made them popular draft animals. The cattle are light to dark brown, slow to mature, long-lived, and produce a volume of milk second only to the Holstein. Brown Swiss were introduced to the United States in the late 1800s, but the majority of cattle in the country are a result of U.S. breeding programs, not importation. Brown Swiss can be registered with the Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders' Association of the USA (see Figure 9-5).



Holstein-Friesian (hol-sten fre-zhe hn) The Holstein-Friesian (commonly known as Holstein) was developed in the Netherlands and is the most popular dairy breed in the United States, with more than 90 percent of all dairy cattle in the United States being of this breed. Holsteins have a distinctive black-and-white color pattern that can range from predominately black with white markings, to predominately white with black markings. Holsteins do possess a recessive gene for the red color, and red Holsteins are occasionally seen. Holsteins produce the highest volume of fluid milk per cow of any breed, although they do have the lowest butterfat production of the common dairy breeds. Holsteins are the largest of the dairy breeds, with cows reaching a mature weight of 1,500 pounds. Calves are around 90 pounds at birth. Cattle can be registered with the Holstein Association USA (see Figure 9-6).


Dairy cattle produce a wide range of products for human consumption. Fluid milk consumption has decreased in recent years (see Table 9-2), for many reasons. In addition to increased competition in the beverage market, an increasing percentage of the U.S. population is comprised of ethnic groups who have a higher incidence of lactose intolerance. People that are lactose intolerant cannot properly digest fluid milk, although often consume products such as yogurt to gain the health benefits of dairy product consumption. In addition to the milk-related products produced by dairy cattle, dairy cattle are also used for meat production. Dairy animals that are not selected for the milking herd are raised to market weight and sold in the same manner as beef cattle. In addition, dairy cattle that have completed their milk production career also are sold as meat animals. Holsteins are especially suited as "dairy beef " because of their large frame size. The following are additional products produced by the dairy industry:

Butter The product made from the milkfat portion of the milk. Butter is made by agitating the milk or cream until the fat particles bind together.

Buttermilk The fluid left after butter has been removed from the milk.

Cheese A product made from whole milk with the addition of enzymes to coagulate the solids into cheese. There are hundreds of varieties of cheese, and many regions and countries have cheeses unique to their areas. Cheese consumption per capita has increased in the United States over the last five years (see Table 9-3). Cheese can be made from any type of milk, including sheep and goat milk. Cheeses can be aged or fresh. Mozzarella and cheddar are the two most popular cheeses produced in the United States (see Figure 9-7).

Condensed milk A canned milk that has had 50 percent of the water removed. Also known as evaporated milk. Sweetened condensed milk has added sugar.

Curd (kerd) The solid that is created in the cheese-making process after the addition of enzymes.

Cream The portion of milk containing milkfat. In raw milk, cream rises to the top of the milk when it is cooled. Commercially available cream is divided into categories based on the amount of milkfat. Light cream is 30-38 percent milkfat, heavy cream has more than 48 percent milkfat.

Dairy beef Dairy cattle that are sold for meat. Most veal is from dairy calves, many dairy steers are fed in feedlots and sold like beef cattle, and most culled dairy cattle are sold for meat.

Evaporated milk Milk that has had 50 percent of the water removed, and is then canned. This is the same as unsweetened condensed milk.

Fluid milk Milk sold for consumption in its liquid form. Fluid milk is categorized in the store by the percentage of fat in the milk, from skim and nonfat, to whole milk, which has had no milkfat removed. California is the top producer of fluid milk in the United States. Holstein cattle produce significantly more fluid milk than any other breed. Both annual milk production per cow, and total annual milk production in the dairy industry have increased over the last 10 years (see Figures 9-8 and 9-9).

Half-and-half A fluid product that is 50 percent cream and 50 percent whole milk.

Homogenized milk Milk that has been processed so that the milkfat is distributed throughout the milk and does not separate.

Ice cream A frozen dairy product containing at least 10 percent milkfat. Premium ice creams have higher milkfat than economy brands. Ice milk is similar to ice cream, but has milkfat of less than 10 percent. Table 9-4 shows the consumption of ice cream and frozen dairy products. More than 950 million gallons of ice cream were produced in the United States in 2005.

Pasteurization (pahs-ter-i-za--shuhn) The process of heating milk to kill microorganisms that cause spoilage or health risks. All commercially available milk is pasteurized.

Raw milk Milk that is fresh from the cow and has not been pasteurized or homogenized.

Rennet (rehn-it) The product containing the enzyme rennin (rehn-ihn) that is added to milk to coagulate the milk and form curds.

Whey (way) The liquid left after cheese has been made. Dried whey is often used as a feed product and is a good source of bioavailable protein. An increasing market for whey is in the form of human protein supplements, and its use in animal feed may decrease as its value increases.

Yogurt (yo-gert) A dairy food made from the bacterial fermentation of milk.




The following are common terms associated with dairy management:

Babcock Cream Test A method of determining how much milkfat is in a milk sample. The amount of milkfat is involved in determining the price for milk.

Bulk tank A tank on the dairy farm that is used to store collected cow milk until it is picked up by the milk cooperative. The bulk tank cools the milk to 40 degrees, and maintains that temperature until transport arrives (see Figure 9-11).

Bovine somatotropin (BST) (soh-mah-tah-tro-pihn) BST is a naturally occurring hormone that the cattle secrete from the pituitary gland. Recombinant BST (rBST) can be commercially manufactured and is available for producers to use for the purpose of increasing milk production.


Bull stud A facility that houses bulls that are used in artificial insemination breeding programs. Most dairy cattle are bred via artificial insemination with frozen semen from bulls housed at bull studs.

Butterfat Same as milkfat.

California Mastitis Test The California Mastitis Test can be done instantly at the side of a cow to determine the presence of mastitis. If the cow has mastitis, the milk cannot be introduced to the bulk tank or sold.

Calf hutch A small shelter, similar in appearance to a doghouse, for housing calves. Hutches have a small fenced area so calves can go in and out of the shelter. Disease spreads less with the use of calf hutches rather than group housing situations (see Figure 9-12).

Calving interval The amount of time between calves. Twelve to thirteen months between calves is considered ideal.

Casein (ka-sen) The primary protein present in milk.

Cleanup bull A bull that may be turned out to impregnate cows that were not artificially inseminated.

Cow trainer An electrical device suspended over the back of cattle in tie or stanchion stalls. If a cow is too far forward to reach the gutter when arching her back to defecate or urinate, the device is set so that she will receive a mild shock until she backs up to reach the gutter.

Culling The permanent removal of an animal from a herd. Cattle are culled for low production, health, or reproductive problems.

Dairy character A term used to describe how closely an animal fits a dairy type. Animals with dairy character are lean and do not have excessive fat cover. Dairy animals should focus their energy on production of milk, not meat and fat, and dairy character is a visual representation of that distribution of energy.


Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) An organization that collects and maintains production information on cattle in member herds. Information is then returned to producers to enable them to make management decisions.

Dehorning The mechanical or chemical removal of horns. Horns on dairy cattle serve no purpose, and cattle with horns can injure each other and people. It is less stressful to remove the horns on young calves than on older animals.

Dry cow A cow that is not currently producing milk. Cattle are typically "dried off" 45-60 days prior to delivery of a new calf.

Free-stall barn A large housing system with stall areas and feeding areas. Cattle freely move throughout the housing system and are not confined to the stalls (see Figure 9-13).

Freshen (frehsh-ehn) To deliver a calf and return to milk production, thereby beginning a "fresh" production cycle.

Grade An animal that is not registered with a breed association. The animal can either be a purebred (a grade Holstein), or of an unknown breed (a grade cow).

Gutter The channel behind cows in stanchions that collects manure that is deposited during the milking process. The gutter cleaner is the mechanical device that moves the manure out of the barn to the manure collection area (see Figure 9-14).



Herd health program A health care plan that maintains the health of a herd of animals. A herd health program includes all aspects of herd management: vaccination, nutrition, reproduction, and facility management.

Hoard's Dairyman The magazine published in Wisconsin since 1885 that is the premier dairy magazine in the United States.

Lactation (lahck-ta-shuhn) The production and secretion of milk.

Lactation curve The plot of the volume of milk produced over the length of a lactation period. Volume peaks approximately 60 days into the lactation period, and gradually declines over time. Persistence is the term used to describe how long production stays at a high level before it begins to decline. The more time dairy cattle spend in the early phase of the lactation curve, the more milk they will produce over their lifetimes. Therefore, dairy producers strive to have cows produce a calf every 13 months.

Linear classification A method of evaluating dairy cattle that assigns a standardized scoring system to different heritable traits.

Milk check The paycheck farmers receive for their milk. The check is the price of the milk per hundredweight, minus the cost of hauling the milk.

Milkfat The fat portion of the milk. Different breeds show significant differences in milkfat production, with Jerseys having the highest milkfat production at over 5 percent. Milkfat is used for production of cheese and butter (see Table 9-1).

Milk grades Farms are certified to produce grades of milk based on standards of facility maintenance and herd health. The following are grades of milk:

Grade A milk The highest-quality milk, and the only milk that can be sold in the United States as fluid milk. Approximately 85-90 percent of milk produced in the United States meets Grade A standards.

Grade B milk Milk produced at facilities that do not meet the standards for Grade A milk, Grade B milk is used for further processing such as butter or cheese. The further processing ensures safety for consumption.

Milk house The place that houses the bulk tank and all the equipment for collecting, cooling, and storing milk.

Milk letdown The release of milk from the alveoli in the udder to allow removal by the milking machine or calf. Cattle can be conditioned to let down milk when they enter the milking environment, or have their udders washed.

Milking machine (milker) A machine that uses a vacuum and an inflation tube and teat cup assembly to remove milk from cows. The following are the three primary types of milking machines:

Pail milkers Milk is removed from cows into containers that sit next to the cows. Pails are then carried to the bulk tank and emptied by hand.

Pipeline milkers Milk is removed from cows and follows a pipeline through the barn to the bulk tank. The person milking does not handle the milk containers (see Figure 9-15).

Suspension milkers Similar to pail milkers, except they are suspended off the ground by a surcingle (ser-sing-gel) around the cow's body.



Milking parlor A system for milking in which cattle enter in groups, and a person in a recessed pit attaches the milking machine. Parlors can be arranged in herringbone, side-opening, carousel, or polygon designs (see Figure 9-16).

Production records Records that show how much milk and butterfat each cow has produced. The record also provides information on age, frequency of milking, and any health-related information.

Purebred An animal that contains genes of only one breed. Purebreds can be registered or unregistered.

Replacement heifers Young females maintained to enter a milking herd.

Registered An animal whose parentage is documented with an established association.

Stanchion (stan-chun) A head gate that restrains cows for milking. Barns with stanchions usually have all the cows come in at one time, and stand in rows, to be milked. Cows may come in only for milking, or may spend the majority of their time in the barn. If they live primarily in the barn, mats or other bedding are provided so the animal can lie down comfortably (see Figure 9-17).


Strip cup A cup used to hold a small amount of milk that is manually milked out before the machine is attached. Milking a bit into the strip cup encourages milk letdown and reduces bacteria in the milk.

Teat dip A disinfectant that teats are dipped in after milking to prevent bacteria from entering the mammary glands.

Teat removal Some heifers are born with extra teats. These teats should be removed at a few weeks of age to prevent problems with infection in the future.

Tie stall Similar to stanchions in that each cow is restrained in its place in the barn. Cows are restrained by a neck chain or strap (see Figure 9-18).

Total mixed ration (TMR) A method of combining ration ingredients so each bite contains all necessary nutrients for the animal.

Type classification A method of classifying animals based on their physical characteristics, ranging from excellent to poor. A registry representative for the breed assigns the classification, and gives a numerical score to each animal.


The dairy cattle industry is very different from the beef industry. Whereas the beef industry has a wide variety of breeds, and use of crossbred animals is extremely common, more than 90 percent of the dairy cattle in the United States are of the Holstein breed, and only six breeds are represented in the U.S. dairy industry. There is a current trend toward using some crossbreeds in herds, especially crosses of Jerseys or Brown Swiss on Holsteins. Some programs are also experimenting with the introduction of European breeds to try to increase fertility rates. However, at this time, the overwhelming majority of U.S. dairy farms continue to milk exclusively Holstein cattle.


Dairy operations require a large amount of specialized equipment for the safe handling of milk, and cattle must be milked at least twice a day to maximize production. Most of the dairy operations in the United States are under 200 cows, and are family-owned and operated. However, a growing number of extremely large dairies are corporately owned. The dairy industry has developed standardized methods for evaluating the physical appearance and production of cows, and producers use that information to make management decisions about the herd.

Match the dairy breed with its characteristic:

1. -- Jersey              a. Produces the largest volume of milk.

2. -- Ayrshire            b. Golden brown and white in color.

3. -- Brown Swiss         c. Red and white with roaning acceptable.

4. -- Holstein            d. Produces the highest percentage of

5. -- Milking Shorthorn   e. Originally from Scotland.

6. -- Guernsey            f. Bred as a dual-purpose milking and draft

7. What state has the most dairy cattle?

a. Wisconsin
b. Texas
c. California
d. New York

8. What state produces the most cheese and butter?

a. Wisconsin
b. Texas
c. Idaho
d. New York

9. Which is used as a house for young calves?

a. Parlor
b. Tie stall
c. Free stall
d. Gutter

10. What is the DHIA, and what does it do?

11. What is the purpose of teat dip?

12. List three dairy products other than fluid milk.

13. What is the current price that producers receive for fluid milk in
    your state?

14. What is the difference between ice milk and ice cream?

15. Obtain a container of cream from the grocery store. Pour the cream
into a jar with a tight lid. Make sure  the jar is large enough that
the cream fills it between half and three-quarters full. Shake the
cream until it divides into a solid and liquid portion. What is each
portion? If one person uses heavy cream and another uses light cream,
which will produce more of the solid product? Why?

Production of milk and milk components by different cattle breeds in
the United States

                          2006 Herd Averages of Cows on DHI (1) testing

                              Number        Milk        BF (2) %
Breed                        of Herds     (lbs/cow)        (%)

Ayrshire                          115      15,515         3.91
Brown Swiss                       275      18,152         4.06
Guernsey                          170      15,402         4.52
Holstein                       21,376      22,569         3.66
Jersey                          1,154      16,127         4.61
Milking Shorthorn                  41      14,676         3.73
Red and White Holstein             29      20,395         3.69
Mixed                           1,376      17,829         3.96
All breeds                     24,536      22,061         3.70

                          2006 Herd Averages of Cows on DHI (1) testing

                               BF #       Protein %     Protein #
Breed                          (lb)          (%)          (lb)

Ayrshire                       606          3.16           490
Brown Swiss                    742          3.37           617
Guernsey                       697          3.35           517
Holstein                       829          3.06           693
Jersey                         744          3.59           579
Milking Shorthorn              547          3.10           454
Red and White Holstein         752          3.04           620
Mixed                          712          3.22           580
All breeds                     820          3.08           682

Source: DHI Report K-3.

(1) Dairy Herd Improvement

(2) Butterfat

U.S. Per capita beverage milk availability

                            Gallons per capita per year

           Total plain and      Total lower-fat
Year     flavored whole milk     and skim milk     Total beverage milk

2005             6.9                 14.0                 21.0
2004             7.3                 13.9                 21.2
2003             7.6                 13.9                 21.6
2002             7.7                 14.2                 21.9
2001             7.8                 14.2                 22
2000             8.1                 14.4                 22.5

Low-fat and fat-free milk include 2% reduced-fat milk, low-fat milk
(1%, 0.5%, and buttermilk), and skim milk (fat-free). Calculated from
unrounded data.

Source: USDA/Economic Research Service. Last updated Feb. 15, 2007.

U.S. per capita cheese product availability

          Pounds per capita per year

            American    Other         Total
Year         cheese     cheese        cheese

2005          12.7       18.7          31.4
2004          12.9       18.3          31.3
2003          12.5       17.9          30.4
2002          12.8       17.6          30.5
2001          12.8       17.2          30
2000          12.7       17.1          29.8

Natural equivalent of cheese and cheese products. Excludes
full-skim American and cottage, pot, and baker's cheese. American
cheese includes cheddar, Colby, washed curd, stirred curd, and
Monterey Jack. Other cheese includes Romano, Parmesan,
mozzarella, ricotta, other Italian cheeses, Swiss, brick, Muenster,
cream and Neufchatel, blue, Gorgonzola, Edam, Gouda, imports
of Gruyere and Emmentaler, and other miscellaneous cheeses.
Calculated from unrounded data.

Source: USDA/Economic Research Service. Last updated Feb. 15,

U.S. per capita frozen dairy products availability

                         Pounds per capita per year

                    Low-fat              Frozen   Other       Total
Year   Ice cream   ice cream   Sherbet   yogurt   frozen   frozen dairy

2005     15.4         5.9         .89     1.3       .57        24.1
2004     15.0         7.2        1.1      1.3      0.63        25.3
2003     16.4         7.5        1.2      1.4      0.57        27.1
2002     16.7         6.5        1.3      1.5      0.62        26.6
2001     16.3         7.3        1.2      1.5      0.69        27
2000     16.7         7.3        1.2      2        0.9         28

Low-fat ice cream is formerly known as ice milk and includes small
amounts of nonfat ice cream. Other frozen products include
nonstandardized frozen dairy products not listed separately.
Calculated from unrounded data.

Source: USDA/Economic Research Service. Last updated Feb. 15, 2007.

FIGURE 9-1 Number of dairy
operations in the United States
(Courtesy of USDA)

U.S. Milk Cow Operations
Number by Size Group, 2004-2005

(000) Operations)

             2004      2005

  1-29       23.8      22.5
 30-39       15.5      14.9
 50-49       24.1      23.1
100-199      10.4      10.1
200-499       4.7       4.7
500+          3.0       3.1

Note: Table made from bar graph.

FIGURE 9-7 Production of different types of cheese in the
United States. (Courtesy of USDA)

Cheese Production
Percent by Type, 2005

Cheddar Cheese          33.4
Swiss                   3.2
Other Italian           8.6
Other American          8.3
All Other              13.4
Mozzarella             33.1

Note: Table made from pie chart.

FIGURE 9-10 Ice cream production
in the United States. (Courtesy
of USDA)

Regular Ice Cream, U.S.
United States

Million gallons

96    914
97    935
98    972
99    980
00    970
01   1005
02    993
03    920
04    960
05    966

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Author:Brady, Colleen
Publication:An Illustrated Guide to Animal Science Terminology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Previous Article:Chapter 8 Beef cattle.
Next Article:Chapter 10 Swine.

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