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A cow may not be the first animal to be added to your homestead, but at some point, many do. Cows bring so much to the homestead, it’s hard to not add one eventually. There are a few major differences in breeds to consider when selecting your cows. The biggest difference to consider is your desire for beef or milk. Environment is another factor to consider.
As with any other domesticated animal, humans have selected cattle primarily for beef or milk traits. There are a few breeds that still have both traits and are considered dual purpose.
In general beef breeds are good at growing muscle quickly but not necessarily good at producing extra milk. They produce enough for their calf, but that’s about it. The most popular breeds are Angus, Limousin, Herford, Simmental, Gelbvieh, and Charolais.
Cows considered dairy breeds have been selected for producing milk. They tend to be a little slower growing but can still be used for beef. Popular breeds for milking cows are the Holstein, Brown Swiss, Jersey, and Guernsey. To get milk, the cow must have a calf, so many homesteaders will grow the calf for their own beef, knowing it will take a bit longer.
The few dual purpose breeds still have variations with in the breed. Make sure you check when purchasing how the animal has been selected. Popular dual purpose breeds are the Shorthorn and Dexter.
Another factor to consider is your environment. If you live in a hot and dry environment, you want to make sure you have a cow that can handle the environment. There are breeds that are better suited for heat like the Brahman. There are some breeds that are better suited for poor range as well, like the Corrientes and Longhorn.
Having a cow on the homestead is very rewarding, either a beef or dairy cow. They bring a lot to the homestead for food for your family. Happy selecting!
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