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  • Jin Gan

What You Need To Know About Holstein Cattle

Holstein Cattle


The Holstein breed originated from the Dutch provinces of North Holland and Friesland which lay on either side of the Zuider Zee. The Geef breeders bred and oversaw the development of these Holstein breeds with the goal of obtaining animals that would make best use of grass, the area's most abundant resource. Over time, these animals evolved into a highly efficient, high producing black and white dairy cow.

Genetic Progress

The artificial insemination (AI) industry has a tremendous impact on the genetic improvement of the Holstein breed. Since perfecting the semen freezing process in the late 1940s, A.I enabled Holstein breeders to use wide range of bulls with high genetic value, allowing them to make more rapid genetic improvement to the cattle. As of today, calves resulting from A.I accounts for more than 85% of Holstein births.

Through the advancement of A.I, a single Holstein bull has the capability to sire more than 50,000 daughters. The types and production information on these females makes it much easier to predict the performance of future offspring as well as to evaluate the quality genetics transmitted from sire to offspring.

Holstein Breed Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

  • They are large animals with colour patterns of black and white or red and white.

  • Healthy calf weighs 40 - 50 kg (75 - 110 pounds) or above at birth.

  • Mature Holstein cows weighs 680 - 770 kg (1500 - 1700 pounds), stands around 145 - 165 cm (58 - 65 inches) tall at the shoulder.

  • Holstein heifers can be bred at 13 months of age.

  • Desirable for Holstein female to calve for the first time between 23 and 26 months of age.

  • Holstein gestation is about 9 months.

  • Average productive life of a Holstein cow is 4 years.

Milk Production

United Kingdom: The Holstein cows produce 7655 litres/year on average throughout 3.2 lactations, with pedigree animals averaging 8125 litres/year over an average of 3.43 lactations. Lifetime production stands at around 26,000 litres.

United States: The 2015 average actual production for all U.S. Holstein herds that were enrolled in production-testing programs and eligible for genetic evaluations was 24,958 pounds of milk, 920 pounds of butterfat and 710 pounds of protein per year.Top producing Holsteins milked three times a day have been known to produce over 72,000 pounds of milk in 365 days.

High Performing Animals

The Holstein cattle is considered world's highest-production dairy animals. It has good income to feed costs ratio, unequalled genetic merit and has the ability to adapt to a wide range of environment conditions.

Holstein Cattle Facts

  • Holstein cattle is easily recognised by their distinctive black and white markings.

  • Holstein cows are considered the largest of U.S dairy breeds (weighs around 1500 pounds and stands around 58 inches tall).

  • Of more than 9 million cows in the United States, over 90% of them are Holstein breed.

  • World record for milk production was set by Ever-Green-View My Gold-ET, a Holstein cow from Wisconsin in 2016. She produced 77,480 pounds of milk that year.

  • They have the ability to adapt to all management and utilisation systems. They can be stabled, but equally suitable for grazing.

  • Compared to natural breeds, the Holsteins are not as resistant to heat and diseases.

  • They are good-natured, easy to handle and can be stabled without much problems.

  • They are social animals, hence naturally form large herds.

  • The cow's heart beats around 60 - 70 beats per minute.

  • The average cow chews at least 50 times per minute.

  • The average cow drinks about 30 - 50 gallons of water a day.

  • Holstein's spots are like fingerprints. No two cows have exact same pattern of black and white spots.

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