This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through a link on my site I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.
Dairy cattle have always been livestock that interests me. Either when I showed as 4-H kid or when we still go to the county fairs. I think a lot of it has to do with they are defiantly the better tempered over the beef cows.
The weight of cows can be hard to ballpark simply because they are these massive creatures we rarely get to walk up to.
How much does a dairy cow weigh?
The answer is it depends. I know I know. Not what you want to hear. But the biggest thing is what breed of dairy cow are you thinking of. Each breed is very different. The Holstine are typically what people think of when it comes to dairy cows but a Jersey cow is not as big but is also a very common dairy breed.
The average weight of a cow intended for dairy weighs between 800 – 1500 pounds depending on age, breed, location, and nutritional history.
Different breeds also have different average weights.
- Holsteins, the most common breed in the dairy industry, typically weigh 1500 pounds.
- Jersey cows, a smaller breed, weigh between 770-1400
- Guernseys weigh between 1000-1500
It’s also important to note that these weights are just averages and individual cows can weigh more or less depending on their genetic makeup and management practices.
Why are Dairy Cows Skinny?
Dairy cows are often observed as being skinny, and there are specific reasons for this appearance. Unlike other livestock animals that are bred for meat production, dairy cows are not primarily bred to gain weight. The primary goal of dairy farming is to maximize milk production, not to bulk up the cows.
In fact, being skinny is advantageous for dairy cows in terms of milk production. A cow’s body needs to convert energy efficiently in order to produce milk.
Thin cows are able to convert energy into milk more efficiently compared to cows that store energy as fat. This means that dairy cows prioritize the conversion of energy into milk rather than putting on weight.
Excess fat can negatively affect a cow’s reproductive performance and overall health if a cow is over weight that can cause all sorts of health issues during delivery and even structural issues as they age.
Dairy Cow Body Condition Scoring Explained
Dairy Cow Body Condition Scoring is a valuable tool used in the dairy industry to assess the body condition of cows. It helps farmers monitor and maintain optimal weight in their milking herd, ensuring good overall health and productivity.
During the scoring process, several key indicators are evaluated. These include the visibility and prominence of the cow’s vertebrae, ribs, and tailhead, as well as the overall shape of the animal. The amount of fat covering on the cow’s trailhead, hooks (part of the hip), and sacral ligament to name a few are taken into consideration.
The scoring system consists of different body condition score (BCS) categories, ranging from 1 to 5. A BCS of 1 signifies an extremely thin cow, with a lack of fat cover, while a BCS of 5 represents an obese cow, with excessive fat accumulation. The ideal BCS is typically around 3, indicating a cow with a good muscle tone and sufficient fat cover.
Body condition scoring is crucial in dairy cow management as it allows farmers to assess the nutritional requirements of their animals accurately. By regularly monitoring the body condition of cows, farmers can adjust their feeding programs and optimize milk production, reproduction, and overall herd health. It also plays a vital role in identifying potential health issues early on, enabling prompt intervention and preventing further complications.
If you want to learn more about the way a dairy cow condition is scored you can read this post from Pennstate.
What factors influence how much a cow weighs?
Several factors influence a cow’s weight ranging from genetics and breed characteristics to management practices and nutrition.
Age Of The Cow
The age of a cow plays a significant role in determining its weight.
Calves are born with an average weight range of 60 to 100 pounds. By the time they reach maturity, cows can weigh anywhere between 1,000 to 1,800 pounds, depending on the breed and individual genetic potential.
Gender plays a significant role in determining the weight of dairy cows.
Male dairy cows, also known as bulls, and female cows have distinct differences in muscle and body fat composition, resulting in gender-specific weight variations.
Bulls generally have a higher muscle mass and lower body fat percentage compared to female cows. This difference in body composition contributes to Bulls’ overall heavier weight.
Bulls can weigh up to 2,200 pounds or more, depending on the breed and individual genetic potential. But like most bull calves they are often castrated and raised for beef. While they don’t get nearly as much meat as say an angus beef cow they still have very tasty beef. If you are wanting to raise your own meat you can buy bull calves or “stears” from a dairy producer at a very low price.
Female cows usually have higher body fat percentages and less muscle mass than bulls. Their average weight ranges from 1,000 to 1,800 pounds at maturity, again depending on the breed and individual genetic potential. Female cows are primarily raised for milk production, and their weight is optimized to ensure adequate milk production and reproductive capabilities.
There are several dairy cow breeds commonly found in the industry, each with its own unique characteristics and qualities. Here are some of the major dairy cow breeds:
1. Holstein: The Holstein breed is known for its high milk production capacity. These cows have a black and white or red and white color pattern and are the largest of all dairy breeds. Holsteins are generally docile with a calm temperament.
2. Jersey: Jersey breed of cow is a smaller breed with a fawn color and prominent white markings. Despite their small size, they are known for their high butterfat content in their milk. Jerseys have a gentle temperament and are adaptable to various climates.
3. Brown Swiss: Brown Swiss cows are large and sturdy with a brown to gray coat color. They have a strong body structure and are known for their excellent milk production, as well as high butterfat and protein content. Brown Swiss cows are generally docile and have a friendly temperament.
4. Guernsey: Guernseys have a red and white or fawn and white color pattern. They are medium-sized cows that produce milk with a rich golden color due to high levels of beta carotene. Guernseys are known for their docile temperament and adaptability to different environments.
Each breed offers its own advantages, whether it’s high milk production, rich milk content, or specific temperament characteristics. Dairy farmers choose the breed that best suits their production goals and preferences.
9 Keys to More Farm Sales
💲Get these 9 tips sent right to your inbox to start making money on your backyard farm.💲
Top 3 Dairy Cow Breeds In The US
There are a lot of different types of cows bred to produce dairy but these are the most common dairy cow breeds in the US and the heifer growth weight according to PennState.
Holstein cows are the most common dairy breed in the United States, known for their exceptional milk production capabilities.
Let’s look at some interesting facts about the most popular dairy cow breed.
- Holstein heifers weigh around 87 pounds at birth.
- At 1 year old, their weight increases to approximately 800 pounds.
- At two years old, Holsteins typically weigh around 1000 – 1400 pounds. The growth rate slows down as they age.
- Fully mature cows (three years of age) weigh around 1,500 pounds.
In terms of height, Holstein cows typically measure around 32 inches at birth. By one year of age, they increase in height to about 46 inches. At two years old, Holsteins reach a height of around 56 inches, and by three years old, they measure approximately 58 inches. I have seen taller but again this goes back to genetics and sometimes you just have that odd ball that grew bigger than the average cow of ber breed…
Holstein heifers have their calves for the first time around 23-26 months which brings them into their first lactation. This is when they reach a desirable weight and size to carry and support a calf. Percentiles are used to understand the distribution of weights and heights within a population.
Jersey Dairy Cows
The growth chart for Jersey cows shows steady increases in body weight and withers height at different months of age.
- At birth, Jersey calves weigh around 60 pounds.
- Younger cows around 1 year old jersey cows weigh 471-548 pounds and are about 44 inches tall
- At 24 months Jersey’s mature weight is just under 900 pounds
In terms of height, Jerseys typically measure around 25 inches at birth. And they mature approximately 48-50 inches.
The average age at first calving for Jersey heifers is around 22-24 months, according to the National Dairy Heifer Evaluation Project. This is when they reach a desirable weight and size to support a calf.
- Brown Swiss calves are born at an average of 125 pounds the average withers height at this age is about 25 inches.
- By one-year-old, the average body weight of Brown Swiss heifers is around 700-800 pounds, withers height between 47- 51 inches.
- Finally, at 24 months old, mature heifers have an average body weight of around 1200-1400 pounds the wither’s height at this stage averages around 56 inches.
There are smaller dairy cow breeds and even miniature dairy cows that are great for small homesteaders so don’t think you are stuck with these large animals eating up the feed costs for your small backyard farm.
It’s time to get your money-sucking hobby to pay for itself!
If you’re tired of your backyard farm eating away at all your extra cash, The Profitable Backyard Farm Kickstart is for you!