There are nearly 480 dairy farms in Washington state, home to 262,000 contented dairy cows. There are seven major dairy cow breeds, all of which can be found in Washington: Holsteins, Jerseys, Guernseys, Ayrshires, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorns and Dutch Belted. While each breed plays a role in Washington dairy farming, Holsteins are by far the most common and the most recognizable.
Holsteins can be found on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica. Of the 9 million dairy cows in the United States, 90% are of Holstein descent. Holsteins originated in The Netherlands when the black cattle of the Batvians were bred with the white cows of Friesians to produce the cows that produced the most milk using the least amount of feed. Over time, this breed became the black-and-white dairy cow known as the Holstein-Friesian, or plainly, Holsteins.
Holsteins have an eraser-pink nose and a shiny coat with black and white -- or sometimes red and white -- markings. These distinguishable markings are like a human fingerprint because no two patterns are identical. Sometimes these markings come in familiar shapes like hearts or diamonds and may even resemble numbers.
One of the reasons we continue to dairy farm is our love for these sweet creatures. They aren’t just how we make a living; they're sort of like a part of our extended family. They each have unique personalities that add flare to every day on the farm. Here are a few more interesting facts about our friends, the Holsteins:
- can smell something up to 6 miles away
- have teeth only on the bottom of their jaw
- don’t actually bite grass; rather, they wrap their tongues around it and pull
- make more than 40,000 jaw movements in a day
- produce 125 pounds of saliva each day
- have a heart rate of 60-70 beats per minute
- drink 30-50 gallons of water a day
- spend 8 hours a day eating, 8 hours a day chewing their cud and 8 hours sleeping
- can’t vomit
- have near 360-degree panoramic vision
Needless to say, Holsteins are incredible creatures that make our job possible, which in turn allows us to provide delicious, farm fresh milk to our communities.