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What are the identifying features of Holstein cows?

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Quick Answer

The main identifying feature of Holstein cows is their black-and-white-patched coloration. A recessive genetic trait sometimes causes Holstein cattle to be red and white, but this is rare.

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Full Answer

Holstein cows are the largest dairy breed of cow in the United States. Their milk production is excellent, and they adapt to a wide variety of habitats and situations. U.S. farmers own over 9 million cows, and 90 percent of those are Holstein cows. These cows produce an average of 23,285 pounds of milk each year, 858 pounds of butterfat and 719 pounds of protein.

Holstein cows weigh 1,500 pounds and stand 58 inches at the shoulder as adults. Calves are 90 pounds at birth. The lifespan of a Holstein cow is around four years. Heifers breed at around 13 to 15 months, when they weigh over 794 pounds. This allows them to give birth to calves at around 23 to 26 months of age.

Holstein cattle are imports from the Netherlands, where they were bred to require very little food. Holsteins have good genetics. Artificial insemination is the reason for this genetic improvement, allowing breeders to choose only the genetically superior bulls to participate in the breeding process. Around 85 percent of Holstein births are due to artificial insemination.

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