While ranchers in the beef industry have 70 different beef breeds to choose from, if you’re a dairy farmer, you’re considering six main dairy breeds.

It’s true that all cattle are in the family of bovinae, including domestic cattle, bison, African buffalo, the water buffalo, the yak, and the four-horned and spiral-horned antelopes, and the common distinctions for this class of animal is the cloven hoofs and at least one of the sexes of a species within this group of animals having true horns.

Dairy and Beef cattle are breeds apart and for good reason.

For domestic purposes and animal agriculture, we land on beef and dairy cattle. In general, dairy cattle are bred and raised for their ability to produce milk and beef cattle are mainly raised for meat (though the extent of their byproducts such as leather and more is almost endless).

Since dairy and beef cattle are built differently and use feed differently, it’s an interesting and fun learning experience to discover their unique differences.

The basics follow.

Dairy cattle are selected for:

·         milking traits,

·         volume of milk produced,

·         and butterfat content.

Beef cattle are selected for:

·         muscle growth,

·         temperament,

·         birthing ease,

·         birth weights,

·         weaning weights and,

·         climate they live in.

Dairy cows are typically big and bony. The nutrients a momma cow consumes naturally mean healthy milk. Beef cows are typically shorter and stockier. In other words, dairy cattle are like long-distance runners with the long, lanky frame.

Beef cattle are less dependent on humans. They must protect themselves and their calves on the open range. Both breeds provide nutrition and byproducts including leather and pharmaceuticals for human consumption. In other words, beef cattle are like your bodybuilders, they must have the muscle.

All of this is influenced by genetics. And, our farmers and ranchers managing their herds are expert in this arena. 

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