We will continue to explore the world of cattle. Today we talk about breeds. Just like dogs and horses, cattle come in different versions, or breeds.
The first big difference is milking (dairy) or meat (beef). Now all dairy cows can be processed for beef and all beef breeds make milk for their babies. The thing that separates them is where the emphasis is placed.
Dairy cattle are traditionally “thin”. Even when they are fat, you can still see their bones. They concentrate all of their energy and food intake into making milk, not making muscle.
Today’s dairy cows make enough milk to feed 3 or 4 calves. They are milked 2-3 times daily and their calves are bottle fed. The rest of that milk is for human consumption: ice cream, cheese, butter, cream cheese and more.
Beef cattle will only make enough milk to feed one calf. Everything else goes into making muscle. They are thick, “beefy” cattle.
This beef cow is raising one calf, which she does every year. The females (heifers) can either be raised as replacement heifers, to be kept in the herd as a momma cow, or they can be raised for slaughter.
The males are almost always castrated and raised as feeder calves, which go to slaughter for consumption. Only a select few are chosen and raised as herd breeding bulls.
Dairy cows must be carefully watched for mastitis, or infection in the udder. If they are not milked out properly, they can have severe infections causing pain and possibly a permanent decrease in milk production.
Beef cattle are generally left alone to graze. They are less friendly than dairy cattle because they aren’t bottle fed – they are raised in a pasture away from people. Many times they don’t see people until they are several months old. They need very carefully planned penning and working facilities to be handled safely.
Next we will cover the primary dairy and beef breeds, as well as touch on dual-purpose breeds.