What are the Differences between Jersey and Holstein Cows?
I’m sure you have seen photos or paintings of serene black and white dairy cows. But did you know there are seven different breeds of dairy cows?
I grew up on my family’s dairy farm with the black and white cows, which called Holsteins. About 20 years ago, I convinced my dad I needed the cutest, most fun-sized cows—otherwise known as Jerseys!
Fun fact: all cows make white milk. (Sorry for those of you who might think brown cows make chocolate milk.) Jerseys are known for the higher butter fat in their milk, so it usually has a slight yellow appearance to it. The high butterfat in Jersey milk is ideal for making cheese, butter and ice cream—those dairy foods that are richer in taste. A Holstein’s milk has a lower fat content, so it is whiter.
A friendly Holstein
Holsteins are the biggest cows of the dairy breeds and Jerseys are the smallest. Holsteins can weigh more than 1,500 pounds, while Jerseys are around 1,200 pounds.
The size isn’t the only physical difference between these two opposite breeds. Holsteins have the black and white, or sometimes red and white, coat pattern. Each pattern is like a human fingerprint, so each Holstein cow has a pattern unique to only her!
Holstein calves – both black and white and red and white
Jerseys are all brown. They can range from a brown so light, it’s almost white or grey to a dark fawn color. Sometimes the tips of their ears can be black. Jerseys always have a grey colored tongue and black hooves.
These two breeds also have some unique characteristics in the shape of their heads. Holsteins have a traditional cow head, which is big and sweet. Jerseys have what is called a dish in their face: their forehead and nose make a slight v shape. This makes their eyes appear larger and more towards the outside of their heads. This gives them a really adorable face that you just want to kiss. Or maybe that’s just me.
There is also a personality difference between Jerseys and Holsteins. Holsteins are usually laid back. In general, not much bothers them. They have a mean side eye, though, because they’re always paying attention; it just takes a lot to get them excited.
A curious Jersey
Jerseys are the total opposite. Jerseys might be a small package but they have a big personality. They tend to be more curious and friendly. Jersey cows are sometimes viewed as stubborn. They are not intimidated by people and have a sassy streak in them.
Jerseys and Holsteins are the most popular dairy breeds in the United States. They are both amazing cows to have on a farm and I love having them both. But if I had to pick one, Jerseys are my favorite.
Did you know there are more breeds of dairy cows than just Holstein and Jersey? Read about the others here.
Ashley and her husband, Eric, are third-generation dairy farmers from the thumb of Michigan. On Sheridan Dairy, Ashley and Eric manage their 240 Holstein and Jersey cows and all of the calves on the farm. Ashley’s parents, Greg and Shelly, oversee the crops. Learn more about the Kennedy family here.