Breeds of Cattle
Is it all in The Breed?
With more than 250 breeds of cattle grazing at any given time worldwide, the
process of selecting a breed can seem like a daunting task; almost like picking a needle out of a stack of
Not surprisingly, the states with the largest cattle populations are Texas,
Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky and Florida. These areas have the
fertile soils, large, open lands, and climates conducive to ideal cattle ranching conditions. But, living in Rhode
Island, for instance, certainly does not preclude you from raising a profitable and healthy herd. Any breed can
flourish in any given local given the proper environment, treatment and care.
A Few Rules of Thumb
There are two types of breeds: dairy and beef. Though the initial definitions may seem
blatantly obvious, beef cows require a little more study to determine what breed is right for you. Any breed can
produce dairy or beef, but different breeds have been bred over decades, sometimes hundreds of years to achieve
certain desired results.
According to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental
Sciences, generally, British breeds are known for their fertility, disposition, and easy fleshing or finishing at
medium weights. Continental breeds are larger with faster growth rates, and have leaner carcasses unless fed to
heavy weights. American breeds are noted for heat tolerance and longevity.
No single breed reigns above another, and none are superior in terms of feed efficiency
or overall efficiency. As a result, crossbreeding programs have proved the most successful for most ranchers. If
properly planned and conducted, crossbreeding allows producers to combine the desirable characteristics of several
Here are some of the more common, and more popular, beef breeds that occupy the majority
of America’s pastures.
These are extremely popular in the United States are either red or black in color. They
are sturdy, have few calving problems and do not develop cancer eye, a skin cancer of the eyes and eyelids, common
in some breeds. The American Angus Association is the largest beef cattle association in the world.
Native to England, these cattle are identified by their red-colored bodies and striking
white faces. A medium-framed cattle with broad heads and stocky, somewhat short legs. They have a good temperament
and grow quickly, they are energetic, and their meat is highly prized. Their "baby beef" is considered ideal
These cattle originate from France. Their color is a reddish-gold, and they possess a
medium to large frame. The bulls are usually darker in color than the females. These cattle are appropriate for all
climates as they can grow long hair for the cold or shorter hair for more temperate pastures. These long-lived
cattle produce tender meat, based in part on the fact that they tend not to become fat.
Originating in England, these were the first cattle brought to America. Medium-sized,
colors range from red to roan to white. Their hide may even be spotted. They do have short horns. Easy manage.
Early on, they reach a weight of approximately 1,000 to 1,200 pounds and produce choice cuts of beef.
A crossing of Hereford, Shorthorn and Brahman. Popular today with southern ranchers who
make their living with beef cattle. Although the breed has no color standard, white with brownish-red is the most
A hardy species, adaptable to many conditions, with long, curling horns. These large
cows and bulls can be black, gray, brown or white, either monotone or with patches. Valued for their fertility and
ease of calving.
Two of the most common dairy cows:
With an average weight of 900 pounds, the Jersey produces more pounds of milk per pound
of body weight than any other breed. Most Jerseys produce far in excess of 13 times their bodyweight in milk.
This ubiquitous black and white dairy cow is highly bred and highly productive. Good
temperament and easily managed.
Do Your Homework
Like humans, each breed brings with it its own unique traits and challenges, pros and
cons, and, depending on the type of product you are looking to produce, selecting a breed, or, as is more common,
multiple breeds, should be a well thought out and well researched decision depending on your ultimate product