Our Velce dairy farm sustains cows of Holstein breed. What kind of breed is this and why we have chosen it? We will tell you about it in this article.
Holsteins originate from lowland breeds spread in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany. European farmers started breeding this species in about the 18th century, and then the North-American farmers continued their work, and it was because of them that the breed became so popular.
The first official Holstein breeder in the United States was Winthrop W. Chenery, who bought a cow of this breed from the captain of the Dutch ship in 1852. In 1872, the Society for breeding Holstein Friesian cattle was organized, and Winthrop W. Chenery was its first president. In 1983, the breed’s name was shortened from Holstein Friesian to Holstein.
Holsteins were generally bread by selection rather than interbreeding. Selective breeding can be divided into 3 stages:
- The mid-70s of the 19th century – milk yield increase;
- The 80s of the 19th century – milk fat content increase;
- The late-80s of the 19th century – milk protein content increase.
Holstein bull inseminators are used to cross-breed with heifers of other black-and-white breeds to improve these breeds productivity.
Holsteins are kept in all climatic zones, but the USA, Canada, and Israel are the world’s largest breeders.
Holstein breed advantages
Holstein breed is black-and-white, so, all black or red-and-white calves are referred to a separate breed since 1972.
Holsteins are bred mainly for milk and dairy products production, but the animals of this breed can also be used in the meat industry. They are good to gain weight, and the meat slaughter yields reach 50 to 60%.
Even though the breed is nurtured as dairy cattle, it has a fairly high average weight:
- heifers – 600 to 700 kg;
- bulls – 900 kg.
With good care, heifers can reach 800 to 900 kg in weight and bulls – 1,200 kg. When normally grown, the shoulder height reaches 145 to 150 cm, the breast depth is 83 to 86 cm, the width is 64 cm, and the pelvis width is about 62 cm. The newborn heifer weighs 38 to 42 kg on average, and the bull weighs 45 kg. When reaching 15 months of age, heifers weigh 350 to 380 kg and can bring forth the young.
The cows of this breed have pronounced conformation of the dairy type:
- long triangular body;
- wide shoulders;
- wide loin;
- legs with pronounced tendons and bones;
- cup-shaped, well developed udder with pronounced veins.
The breed external signs, for which it is usually recognized by livestock breeders, are as follows: a round head with short horns, and broad shoulders with a deep chest and thin legs.
It is believed that cows of this breed produce the highest milk yields with a high content of fat. However, figures may vary by country, depending on local climatic conditions and food resources adequacy.
In Israel, livestock breeders achieved the highest milk yields – 10 thousand kg per year with 3 to 3.1% fat content and 3% protein level. The productivity is slightly lower in the USA and Canada – 8 to 9 thousand kg with 3.6% fat content and 3.2% protein level.
In 1975, the highest milk yield among Holsteins was recorded – an American cow Beecher Arlinda Ellen produced 25,248 kg of milk with 2.8% fat content.
In 1976, the milk fat content record was set by the cow Breezewood Patten, which reached a yield of 21,546 kg with 4.7% fat content and 1,012 kg of milk fat products.
The average life expectancy of the breed is 10 years. The milk productivity starts falling after the second calving, and the cow loses profitability on the fifth calving.
For this breed, the produced milk quality and quantity is very dependent on maintenance conditions and nutrition quality. They have to be as close as possible to the natural surroundings, and it is considered important to avoid keeping the cows on the leash.
It is usually recommended to keep Holsteins in boxes or stalls, providing them with isolation, stable temperature conditions, automatic feeding, and regular bedding change and cleaning because the breed is very tidy.
The diet for Holsteins should consist of peas, clover, medic, lupine, the forage mixture has to include at least 20% protein, and the drinking water should be warmed.
The cows need constant veterinary care because adult specimens often suffer from mastitis. Calves are very prone to infectious diseases, and it is not advised to touch them with unwashed hands. Veterinarians also recommend prebiotics to be added to their forage mixture.
Holsteins are very sensitive to stress, so, it is not advised to buy them mature because transportation and changing the area can significantly reduce productivity.
The Holstein breed is well suited for large cattle farms since it provides great milk yields with a high content of fat but requires comfortable maintenance conditions, high-quality nutrition, and constant veterinary supervision. All these factors make Holsteins quite costly to breed independently.