Everything You Need to Know About the Holstein Cow

Posted by Allie Layos

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Meet the world's leader in milk production, the Holstein cow.

The Holstein is the world's highest production dairy animal. Though it was developed in the Netherlands, 90% of the dairy cows in the United States are now of Holstein descent, and it's easy to see why.

Holsteins are unsurpassed in milk production, adaptable to a wide range of environmental conditions, and inexpensive to keep when compared to what they are capable of producing for their owners. In fact, top-producing Holsteins milked three times a day have been known to produce over 72,000 pounds of milk a year.

A Holstein even made it to the White House -- Pauline Wayne was the official presidential pet to the 27th President of the United States, William Howard Taft. She grazed on the White House lawn from 1910 to 1913, and provided milk for the presidential family.

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General Appearance

Holsteins are large, stylish animals. They can weigh about 1,500 pounds and stand 58 inches tall at the shoulder.


Like all dairy breeds, Holsteins show more bone and less muscle than beef breeds, and have more angle over the hip, tail-head and shoulders. They also have "funnel-butts," meaning that from the pin bones of the hips to the hocks, the hindquarters form a funnel-type angle from the pelvis to the legs.


The Holstein's typical black and white color is due to artificial selection by breeders, but they can also be found in red and white, caused by a recessive gene trait.


The Holstein has a long head and nose, which sets it apart from other dairy breeds. They are naturally horned, so you will see as many horned (or dehorned) animals as you will polled.


Holsteins are known for their good nature. They are easy to handle, resistant to stress and can be stabled without any problems. They exhibit a strong herd mentality.



As a general rule, Holsteins are problem-free when it comes to health, though they can fall prey to the same common ailments as other cattle -- worms, scours, mastitis, and bloat. While cows often live much longer, the average productive life of a Holstein is approximately four years.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Holstein Cow