One of the reasons I love hanging out with people in the agricultural community, especially dairy farmers, is because it is so easy to start a conversation about all the classic debates. What kind of tractors do you use? Typically, a John Deere versus Case IH discussion ensues. How do you store your feed? This will likely kickstart a conversation about silos versus bunkers. My favorite discussion of all time is the great debate of dairy cow breeds and which one is the best. Obviously, there is no one right answer, and it all depends on who you talk to and their personal experiences.
To showcase the variety of opinions and perspectives on this matter, I took the time to send out a poll to my friends on social media who cared to give their input, and I adored the variety of responses I got in return. Here is a full analysis of the responses I received, both from people involved with dairy and those who are not. I recognize this is in no way a complete or fully inclusive poll, but it was fun to hear people’s thoughts on the matter!
From the lower end of votes in my poll comes the Guernsey breed, who is beloved for their uniqueness and sentimental aspects from showing them. It also helps that I was able to have a response from a former National Guernsey Queen!
Up next was the Jerseys. One of the top reasons from a respondent, in my opinion, is simply because they have the cutest calves. However, a more technical response was that they are a strong-willed cows with unique and playful personalities. On top of that, their smaller frames create champions in the showring with well-blended bodies. I’ll leave it up to you to decide the priorities for why a breed should be favored.
Looking at the Brown Swiss breed, it is easy to tell they are loved for their looks. I received messages about the love for their big fluffy ears, big doe eyes, and extra wrinkles, but they also have a curious, stubborn, and sassy personality to make them stand out even more from the crowd. They are also loved for their size paired with high components, much like the Jersey. Many folks out there hold this breed in a special place, especially for a respondent who described how they have raised and shown Brown Swiss for 10 years and now own a small herd of them. Another person who started their own prefix with them.
Finally, we reach the top response among my very small, but passionate pool of participants. Black and White Holsteins are considered the most well-known breed, which makes them hold a special place in many people’s hearts, including my own. They are the breed I know best, and I have adored their company in the barn and in the showring for many years. It was even pointed out to me how they are a favorite since they are seen on Chick-fil-a billboards, and because they simply bring a smile to your face!
However, it was the Red and White Holstein that received the most votes in my poll. Many feel a strong love for the wide range of personalities that tends to come with a bit more spunk and sass than their Black and White counterparts. You get to have a nice, big cow with great production and a fun pop of color to look at. Not only this, but one person pointed out their interesting history as a breed. A favorite quote of mine from this poll regarding the Red and White Holsteins is: “There’s just something about a pretty aged red cow with a bangin’ udder.”
Clearly, there are many factors that play into this debate. Personal history, component analysis, style, personality, and more were brought up in my own version of this discussion. This is a debate I hope will go on forever, because the diversity and passion of the dairy industry is what makes it remarkable.
Mikayla grew up near Osceola, Wis. She discovered her passion for the dairy industry while working on her neighbors’ Holstein dairy farm. That spurred her involvement in 4-H and FFA, and following graduation from Osceola High School, she headed to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in agricultural communication and marketing. During the school year, she worked as a website designer for the University of Minnesota department of animal science, and last summer, she was a farmer relations intern for Midwest Dairy. Peper served as the 2022 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern.