Dairy Cattle Breeds & management (new) I Mshindo media

Cow management and care

Cow comfort and its effects on milk productionCertain behaviors such as eating, rumination, and lying down can be related to the health of the cow and cow comfort.

These behaviors can also be related to the productivity of the cows. Likewise, stress, disease, and discomfort will have a negative effect on the productivity of the dairy cows.

Therefore, it can be said that it is in the best interest of the farmer to increase eating, rumination, and lying down and decrease stress, disease, and discomfort to achieve the maximum productivity possible.

Also, estrous behaviors such as mounting can be a sign of cow comfort, since if a cow is lame, nutritionally deficient, or are housed in an over crowded barn, the performance of estrous behaviors will be altered.

Feeding behaviors are obviously important for the dairy cow, as feeding is how the cow will ingest dry matter, however, the cow must ruminate to fully digest the feed and utilize the nutrients in the feed. Dairy cows with good rumen health will likely be more profitable than cows with poor rumen health, as a healthy rumen will aid in the digestion of nutrients. An increase in the time a cow spends ruminating is associated with the increase in health and an increase in milk production.

The productivity of dairy cattle is most efficient when the cattle have a full rumen . Also, the standing action while feeding after milking has been suggested to enhance udder health. The delivery of fresh feed while the cattle are away for milking stimulates the cattle to fed upon return, potentially reducing the prevalence of mastitis as the sphincters have time to close while standing  This makes the pattern of feeding directly after being milked an ideal method of increasing the efficiency of the herd.
Cows have a high motivation to lie down  so farmers should be conscious of this, not only because they have a high motivation to lie down, but also because lying down can increase milk yield. When the lactating dairy cow lies down, blood flow is increased to the mammary gland which in return results in a higher milk yield.
To ensure that the dairy cows lie down as much as needed, the stalls must be comfortable. Put very simply, a stall should have a rubber mat, bedding, and be large enough for the cow to lie down and get up comfortably. Signs that the stalls may not be comfortable enough for the cows are the cows are standing, either ruminating or not, instead of lying down, or perching, which is when the cow has its front end in the stall and their back end out of the stall.
There are two types of housing systems in dairy production, free style housing and tie stall. Free style housing is where the cow is free to walk around and interact with its environment and other members of the herd. Tie stall housing is when the cow is chained to a stantion stall with the milking units and feed coming to them.

By-products and Processing

Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to a high enough temperature for a short period of time to kill the microbes in the milk and increase keep time and decrease spoilage time. By killing the microbes, decrease the transmission of infection, and elimination of enzymes the quality of the milk and the shelf life increases. Pasteurization is either completed at 63 °C for thirty minutes or a flash pasteurization is completed for 15 seconds at 72 °C. By-products of milk include butterfat, cream, curds, and whey. Butterfat is the main lipid in milk. The cream contains 18–40% butterfat. The industry can be divided into 2 market territories; fluid milk and industrialized milk such as yogurt, cheeses, and ice cream.
Whey protein makes up about 20% of milk’s protein composition and is separated for the casein (80% of milk’s protein make up) during the process of curdling cheese. This protein is commonly used in protein bars, beverages and concentrated powder, due to its high quality amino acid profile. It contains levels of both essential amino acids as well as branched that are above those of soy, meat, and wheat. “Diafiltered” milk is a process of ultrafiltration of the fluid milk to separate lactose and water from the casein and whey proteins. This process allows for more efficiency in cheese making and gives the potential to produce low-carb dairy products. 


Since the 1950s, artificial insemination (AI) is used at most dairy farms; these farms may keep no bull. Artificial insemination uses estrus synchronization to indicate when the cow is going through ovulation and is susceptible to fertilization. Advantages of using AI include its low cost and ease compared to maintaining a bull, ability to select from a large number of bulls, elimination of diseases in the dairy industry, improved genetics and improved animal welfare  Rather than a large bull jumping on a smaller heifer or weaker cow, AI allows the farmer to complete the breeding procedure within 5 minutes with minimum stress placed on the individual female’s body. 
Dairy cattle are polyestrous, meaning they cycle continuously throughout the year. They tend to be on a 21 day estrus cycle, however for management purposes, some operations sync their cows or heifers using synthetic hormones in order to have the ideal time for breeding and later calving. These hormones are short term and are only used when necessary. For example, one common protocol for synchronization involves an injection of GnRH (gonadotrophin releasing hormone). which increases the levels of follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone in the body. Then, seven days later prostaglandin F2-alpha is injected, followed by another GnRH injection 48 hours later. This protocol causes the animal to ovulate 24 hours later. 
Estrus is often called standing heat in cattle and refers to the time in their cycle where the female is receptive towards the male. Estrus behaviour can be detected by an experienced stockman. These behaviours can include standing to be mounted, mounting other cows, restlessness, decreased milk production, and decreased feed intake.
More recently, embryo transfer has been used to enable the multiplication of progeny from elite cows. Such cows are given hormone treatments to produce multiple embryos. These are then ‘flushed’ from the cow’s uterus. 7–12 embryos are consequently removed from these donor cows and transferred into other cows who serve as surrogate mothers. The result will be between 3 and 6 calves instead of the normal single, or rarely, twins.

Hormone use

Hormone treatments are sometimes given to dairy cows in some countries to increase reproduction and to increase milk production.
About 17% of dairy cows in the United States are injected with Bovine somatotropin, also called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), or artificial growth hormone. The use of this hormone increases milk production by 11%–25%. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that rBST is harmless to people. The use of rBST is banned in Canada, parts of the European Union, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
In Canada, Canadian Dairy farmers have high screening procedures they have to go through every time the milk is retrieved from the farm; if the regulations are not met the milk does not get loaded onto the truck for further processing. There is to be no medication or hormones in the milk for safety reasons 


Dairy cattle at feeding timeNutrition plays an important role in keeping cattle healthy and strong. Implementing an adequate nutrition program can also improve milk production and reproductive performance. Nutrient requirements may not be the same depending on the animal’s age and stage of production.
Forages, which refer especially to hay or straw, are the most common type of feed used. Cereal grains, as the main contributors of starch to diets, are important in meeting the energy needs of dairy cattle. Barley is an excellent source of balanced amounts of protein, energy, and fiber.
Ensuring adequate body fat reserves is essential for cattle to produce milk and also to keep reproductive efficiency. However, if cattle get excessively fat or too thin, they run the risk of developing metabolic problems and may have problems with calving. Scientists have found that a variety of fat supplements can benefit conception rates of lactating dairy cows. Some of these different fats include oleic acids, found in canola oil, animal tallow, and yellow grease; palmitic acid found in granular fats and dry fats; and linolenic acids which are found in cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, and soybean.
Using by-products is one way of reducing the normally high feed costs. However, lack of knowledge of their nutritional and economic value limits their use. Although the reduction of costs may be significant, they have to be used carefully because animal may have negative reactions to radical changes in feeds, (e.g. fog fever). Such a change must then be made slowly and with the proper follow up.


List of dairy cattle breeds

  • According to the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association, PDCA, there are 7 major dairy breeds in the United States. These are: Holstein, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Ayrshire, Jersey, Red and White, and Milking Shorthorn.
  • Holstein cows either have distinct white and black markings, or distinct red and white markings. Holstein cows are the biggest of all U.S. dairy breeds. A full mature Holstein cow usually weighs around 700 kilograms (1,500 lb) and is 147 centimetres (58 in) tall at the shoulder. They are known for their outstanding milk production among the main breeds of dairy cattle. An average Holstein cow produces around 10,000 kilograms (23,000 lb) of milk each lactation. Of the 9 million dairy cows in the U.S., approximately 90% of them are of the Holstein descent. The top breed of dairy cow within Canada’s national herd category is Holstein, taking up 93% of the dairy cow population, have a production rate of 10,257 kilograms (22,613 lb) of milk per cow that contains 3.9% butter fat and 3.2% protein
  • Brown Swiss cows are widely accepted as the oldest dairy cattle breed, originally coming from a part of northeastern Switzerland. Some experts think that the modern Brown Swiss skeleton is similar to one found that looks to be from around the year 4000 BC Also, there is evidence that monks started breeding these cows about 1000 years ago.
  • The Ayrshire breed first originated in the County of Ayr in Scotland. It became regarded as a well established breed in 1812. The different breeds that were crossed to form the Ayrshire are not exactly known. However, there is evidence that several breeds were crossed with the native cattle to create the breed.
  • Guernsey cows originated just off the coast of France on the small Isle of Guernsey. The breed was first known as a separate breed around 1700. Guernseys are known for their ability to produce very high quality milk from grass. Also, the term “Golden Guernsey” is very common as Guernsey cattle produce rich, yellow milk rather than the standard white milk other cow breeds produce.
  • The Jersey breed of dairy cow originated on a small island located off the coast of France called Jersey. Despite being one of the oldest breeds of dairy cattle they now only occupy 4% of the Canadian National Herd. Purebred Jersey cows, according to available data, have been in the UK area since about the year 1741. When they were first bred in this area, they were not known as Jerseys, but rather as the related Alderneys. The period between 1860 and around 1914 was a popular time for Jerseys. In this time span, many countries other than the United States started importing this breed, including Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand, among others.
  • Among the smallest of the dairy breeds, the average Jersey cow matures at approximately 410 kilograms (900 lb), with a typical weight range between 360 and 540 kilograms (800–1,200 lb). According to North Dakota State University, the fat content of the Jersey cow’s milk is 4.9 percent. It is also the highest in protein, at 3.8 percent. This high fat content means the milk is often used for making ice cream and cheeses. According to the American Jersey Cattle Association, Jerseys are found on 20 percent of all US dairy farms and are the primary breed in about 4 percent of dairies.[citation needed]
  • Amongst the Bos indicus, the most popular dairy breed in the world is Sahiwal of the Indian subcontinent. It does not give as much milk as the Taurine breeds, but it is by far the most suitable breed for warmer climates. Australian Friesian Sahiwal and Australian Milking Zebu have been developed in Australia using Sahiwal genetics. Gir, another of the Bos indicus breeds, has been improved in Brazil for its milk production and is widely used there for dairy.

Animal welfare

Animal welfare refers to both the physical and mental state of an animal, and how it is coping with its situation. An animal is considered in a good state of welfare if it is able to express its innate behaviour, comfortable, healthy, safe, well nourished, and is not suffering from negative states such as distress, fear and pain. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, and humane handling. If the animal is slaughtered then it is no longer “good animal welfare”. It is the human responsibility of the animals’ wellbeing in all husbandry and management practices including humane euthanasia. Welfare differs greatly compared to animal rights. Welfare approves animal use by humans, wheres animal rights do not believe in the use of animals in any circumstance including companion animals.
Proper animal handling, or stockmanship, is crucial to dairy animals’ welfare as well as the safety of their handlers. Improper handling techniques can stress cattle leading to impaired production and health, such as increased slipping injuries. Additionally, the majority of nonfatal worker injuries on a dairy farm are from interactions with cattle. Dairy animals are handled on a daily basis for a wide variety of purposes including health-related management practices and movement from freestalls to the milking parlor. Due to the prevalence of human-animal interactions on dairy farms, researchers, veterinarians, and farmers alike have focused on furthering our understanding of stockmanship and educating agriculture workers. Stockmanship is a complex concept that involves the timing, positioning, speed, direction of movement, and sounds and touch of the handler.[citation needed]

A recent survey of Minnesota dairy farms revealed that 42.6% of workers learned stockmanship techniques from a family members, and 29.9% had participated in stockmanship training. However, as the growing U.S. dairy industry increasingly relies on an immigrant workforce, stockmanship training and education resources will become more pertinent. Clearly communicating and managing a large culturally diverse workforce brings new challenges such as language barriers and time limitations.
Organizations like the Upper Midwest Agriculture Safety and Health Center (UMASH) offer resources such as bilingual training videos, fact sheets, and informational posters for dairy worker training. Additionally the Beef Quality Assurance Program offer seminars, live demonstrations, and online resources for stockmanship training.
In order for the cows to reach high performance in milk yields and reproduction, they must be in great condition and comfortable in the system of which they are reared. Once an individual’s welfare is reduced, so does her efficiency and production. This creates more cost and time on the operation, therefore most farmers strive to create a healthy, hygienic, atmosphere for their cattle. As well as provide quality nutrition that will keep the cows yield high.
The practice of dairy production in a factory farm environment has been criticized by animal rights activists. Some of the ethical reasons regarding dairy production cited include how often the dairy cattle are impregnated, the separation of calves from their mothers, and the fact that the cows are considered “spent” and culled at a relatively young age, as well as environmental concerns regarding dairy production.
The production of milk requires that the cow be in lactation, which is a result of the cow having given birth to a calf. The cycle of insemination, pregnancy, parturition, and lactation is followed by a “dry” period of about two months before calving, which allows udder tissue to regenerate. A dry period that falls outside this time frames can result in decreased milk production in subsequent lactation.Dairy operations therefore include both the production of milk and the production of calves. Bull calves are either castrated and raised as steers for beef production or used for veal.
Animal rights groups such as Mercy for Animals also raise welfare concerns by citing undercover footage showing abusive practices at factory farms.


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