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Holstein Friesian Cattle

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Holstein Friesian Cattle: The Dairy Champion

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The Holstein Friesian is a breed of cattle generally originating from the northern parts of Holland and Germany. The name Holstein Friesian comes from the Friesland province of Holland and Holstein province in Northern Germany where this breed is largely found. These cattle are known as the world’s highest milk-producing breed. Even though its origins are in northern Europe, the Holstein Friesian is now spread to different parts of the world. There is a major population of them in the dairy farms of the US and UK. 

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The Holstein Friesian cattle is the result of a continuous breeding process of the German and Dutch breeders over a while. These cattle are mostly white and black patched and some might even show patches of other colours. Most of the popular cow images that milk and dairy commercial use are of the HF breed. The Holstein Friesian cows are also used to produce meat products. They are mostly used to make ground beef and roast beef.


Holstein Friesian Cattle Characteristics

The HF breed cows are mostly found with marking of black or red on white. Some rare breeds also have both black and red patches on white. Some cattle might also appear blueish which is the result of mixing between white and black fur of the cattle. They have always been known for their high milk yielding capacity. An adult Holstein Friesian cow produces an average of more than 10000 litres of milk in a year. The milk of this Holstein Friesian breed has high fat and protein content. An average of 3.7% butterfat and 3.1% of protein are usual components of this milk, and there might be slight variations owing to the changes in climate and fodder. 


An adult Holstein Friesian cow can weigh between 690-770 kilograms and measure a height of about 140-165 cm. A healthy calf at the time of birth can weigh up to 40 to 50 kg. These calves are bred by 14 months after birth when they weigh an average of 320kg. These cattle are usually planned to have their first calve when they are about 22 months of their age when they have approximately 80% of their mature body weight. 


History of Holstein Friesian Breed

The Holstein breed is believed to be originated in the Netherlands almost 2000 years back. It is found that two types of cattle from northern Holland and northern Germany were crossed to create the first Holstein breed. It is said that the mix of black animals from the Batavians in present-day Germany and white cattle from Friesians of present-day Holland created the unique black and white patched Holstein breed. The ancestor of the Holstein breed, the Friesian are still popular among dairy farmers. These are still bred even though it has a lesser capacity to produce milk than Holsteins and are smaller bodied than them. These Friesian breeds are now found in parts of England, Holland, and New Zealand. 

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Since then, different varieties of Holstein cows have been bred throughout the area. The northern European region from the thirteen century is unbeaten for the production of cattle and dairy products. There are records that show that there were enormous cattle weighing up to 3000 pounds each. The area was also known for its huge butter and cheese production capacity. The continuous breeding process by the breeders in northern Holland and Germany has produced superiorly efficient breeds over the long years. The main aim of these breeders was to make use of the abundant grasslands in the area. Their breeding and selection techniques are considered the best in the world and are widely acclaimed. They breed these cattle to produce as much milk and beef as possible. 


Genetics of Holstein Friesian Cattle

The last century has prominent importance in the breeding techniques of the cattle. The last fifty years, in particular, is known as the golden age of Friesian breeding, owing to the scientific developments in embryo techniques which also created a large herd of high-quality bulls ready to enter the breeding area. The Friesian bull also knows as Osborndale Ivanhoe had good agility and strength, but their daughters lacked strength and depth. 


The three main descendants include Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation, Penstate Ivanhoe Star, and Hilltop Apollo Ivanhoe. All these breeds have helped in breeding healthy cattle over a period of time. There have also been popular cloned breeds of the Holstein cattle in the US as well as the UK. 


Holstein Friesian in the United Kingdom

The import of Dutch cattle to England and parts of Scotland up to the eighteenth century have brought up a steady population of the Holstein breed in the UK. The Dutch breeds were always considered the best in England from the eighteenth century. These early imports of cattle to England and other parts of the United Kingdom have created a large pool of Dairy livestock which also include crossbreeds between the Holstein and native breeds. 


The Island of Jersey and Guernsey had prohibitions on imports of cattle as they had their native breeds named after the islands themselves. The Jersey cattle in particular was popular all over the world. The legal prohibition was to protect the indigenous breeds. But after World War II the farmers of these islands needed to repopulate their breeds as they suffered heavy losses due to the war. This situation caused the prohibitions to be lifted and more than 200 animals were imported into the islands to repopulate the herds. These animals were accompanied by 3 high-quality bulls as a gift from Canada to help the farmers widen their breeds. 

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In the 1940s the British Friesian Cattle Society was established which was followed by The Pure Holstein Breed Society in 1946. There was widespread selection and breeding of the Holstein breed until the 1970s when their popularity exploded. After the sudden rise in demand for the breed in the 1970s more animals were imported and also additionally bred. The two societies merged to become the Holstein UK in 1999. 


Records up to 2005 show more than 3.47 million cattle in the UK of which 61% have Holstein influence. The crossbreed of Holstein-Friesian which has more than 12.5% gene pool of Friesian and less than 87.5% gene pool of Holsteins is the major portion. This breed is the most sought out for its superior milk-producing capabilities and comprises about 51% of the Holstein Cattle in the UK are of this breed. The Friesian breed which has more than 87.5 Friesian gene pool and less than 12.5% of the Holstein gene pool form the second most popular category. This breed has more than 1,079,000 cattle which accounts for almost 31% of the total Holstein category. 


The Holstein breed which has more than 87.5% of Holstein blood and less than 12.5% of Friesian blood has about 254,000 animals and accounts for about 7% of the dairy cattle in the UK. There are also Holstein Friesian cross breeds, which are obtained by crossing the Holstein-Friesian, Holstein, or the Friesian breeds with other native breeds. These crossbreeds have almost 101000 animals which comprise almost 3% of the milch cattle. Other dairy breeds in the United Kingdom account for almost 7% of all dairy animals. These statistics also include young animals, and it is estimated that there are far more than 2 million adult cattle in the UK. 


The Holstein breed in the UK currently produces an average of 7,655 litres a year. It is estimated that cattle of this breed produce more than 26000 litres of milk in their lifetime which is far more than any other breed in the UK. These calculations also have variations across geographical locations, owing to the differences in fodder, soil, and climate. 


Holstein Cattle in the US 

The introduction of the Holstein- Friesian breed into America starts in the 1960s when the Black and White cattle from Europe were imported to the US from 1661 to 1665. The modern-day New York and Connecticut were areas of Holstein cattle farming when the Dutch farmers had settled in with the breed along the Hudson River. The first recorded imports whereas are in 1795 by the Holland Land Company to New York when the imported cattle were as big as oxen as recorded in a statement. The import consisted of two bulls and six cows. 


One of the most famous Holstein cow in the world would be Pauline Wayne which was the official pet to the 27th President of the US, William Howard Taft. Pauline Wayne has often seen grazing in the White House lawns and provided milk for the first family. It was in 1994 that different Holstein associations merged to form the Holstein Association USA, Inc.


The milk production of Holstein cattle in the US is very high amounting up to 23,022 pounds on a yearly average. The milk also contained 840 pounds of butterfat and 709 pounds of protein. The average lifetime production of Holstein cattle in the US stands at 61,729 pounds. The highest producing cow is Bur-Wall Buckeye Gigi which produced 74,650 pounds of milk in 365 days. The advantage of the US over the UK in terms of milk production owes largely to the use of milk production hormone bST which several agencies calculate almost 17% of the cattle in the US are treated with. The three times milking strategy adopted in the US has also contributed to the considerable increase in production. The TMR system or total mixed ration system of feeding also contributes to the high yield. 


The Holstein Friesian breed of cattle is one of the most popular dairy cattle breeds all over the world. It certainly deserves popularity as it is also the highest milk-producing cattle in the world. Originating from the northern European grasslands almost 2000 years ago, the breed is now spread all over the globe. The discovery of this single breed has contributed to the high milk-producing capabilities of the world. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Which are the Most Famous Holstein Cattle in the World?

Ans: The most popular Holstein cattle have to be Pauline Wayne, the official presidential pet in the White House. RORA Elevation is another prize-winning bull, often regarded as the finest breed of cattle. Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief is a bull both famous and infamous for its great genes for milk production and also for the introduction of a lethal gene into the Holstein population. Belle Sarcastic is another popular individual cattle who was known to be the unofficial mascot of Michigan State University.


The English rock band Pink Floyd put Lulubelle III on the cover of their album Atom Heart Mother, which made Lulubelle famous. Kian is one of the famous bulls whose semen has been sold all over the world. It is believed that more than one million units of semen have been sold from Kian. Osborne Ivanhoe is another Holstein bull famous as it has mated more than 100187 times in its lifetime and whose semen has been shipped worldwide.

2. Are there Other Colours of Holstein Cattle Other than Black and White?

Ans: Even though the black and white patched Holstein cattle are more popular and also form the majority of the Holstein population, there are some other colours of Holstein's calves. The prominent other colour is red patches on white and is called red and white Holsteins. The red replace the black in the traditional Holsteins to produce the red and white Holsteins due to a regressive gene. There are also cases where there are both black as well as red patches on white. Another rare colour of the Holstein cow is blue, which happens due to the interchanging of white and black fur. 

3. What are the Advantages of Friesian Cattle Over Holsteins?

Ans: Even though Holsteins are the most popular due to their high milk-producing capability, the Friesian cattle also have several advantages. One of the prominent differences is that the Friesian cattle calve more often which is an advantage to faster herd building. Friesian milk also has more protein and fat content percentages. The Friesian cattle also produce more efficient male calves than the Holsteins.