Best Cow for Milk – The 7 Best Dairy Cow Breeds For Your Homestead

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This article is part of our Producing Dairy on the Homestead series.

Are you trying to find the best cow for milk – or the best dairy cow breed for your homestead? If so, then finding the perfect cow breed is trickier than it seems!

Here’s why.

Each milking cow breed has unique strengths and weaknesses that might play in your favor – or work against you, depending upon your homestead, your resources, your needs, and your land!

So, let us go over our top picks for the best dairy cows for your homestead’s milk supply. 

The cow breeds that we have named as our top picks are perfect for homesteaders! Some require prior cow handling experience. Others do not – and are easy to handle.

We’ll also discuss the most critical cow breed nuances in further detail – so you choose the best dairy cow breed for your situation.

Sound good?

Let’s begin!

The 7 Best Dairy Cow Breeds:

  1.  Holstein Cow
  2.  Jersey Cow
  3.  Brown Swiss Cow
  4.  Guernsey Cow
  5.  Ayrshire Cow
  6.  Milking Shorthorn
  7.  Dexter Cow

Let’s spend a few minutes analyzing the pros and cons of each dairy cow – and we’ll also answer the following questions coming from a homesteader’s perspective.

What makes these cows perfect homestead cows? How much milk do these dairy cows produce? Which of our top picks produce the tastiest milk for cheese and butter? And which cow breeds are the best dual-purpose breeds? 

Let us find out!

Read More – How Many Cows Can You Keep Per Acre in Your State?

The Best Cows for Milk on the Homestead [Top 7 Dairy Breeds!]

What is the Best Cow for Milk Overall?

One of the top questions my fellow farming and homesteaders ask about cows – is which cows are best for milk!

With so many breeds of cows out there in the world today, it can be somewhat tricky to determine which milking cow breed is the best suited for you and your needs as a small farmer or homesteader. 

Many homesteaders struggle to find the breed for them, but this list containing the best cow for milk can hopefully make the decision easier for you!

Let us go through the seven best cow breeds you can have on your homestead to ensure you have a good milk supply reliably – and consistently!

# 1 – Holstein Dairy Cow

I wanted to start this list of the best dairy cows with the most prolific milk producer in the world of cows. Mission accomplished! I think that Holsteins are some of the hardest-working cows on this list, and they’re certainly among the best dairy cows for homesteads and farms that need abundant quantities of fresh farm milk!

Holstein dairy cows are the typical black and white cows that come to most people’s minds when they think of dairy cows. 

Holstein dairy cows originated from Holland and made their way to America in the 1850s.

Holstein dairy cows now make up approximately 90% of the cows used for dairy in America’s milk production. 

The reason why Holsteins are so popular in the American dairy industry is due to their high productivity. If these cows are cared for properly, they can produce nearly ten to twelve gallons of milk daily.

(Holstein’s can sometimes produce much more milk than twelve gallons per day. Later in this article, I’ll introduce you to Dezi – the legendary Holstein dairy cow. You won’t believe how much milk she makes daily!)

Holstein dairy cows are also generally easy to work with, and they are tremendously docile animals. 

Holsteins do, however, need a large amount of feed and a large grazing area as they are on the bigger side in size. 


# 2 – Jersey Cow

Have you seen photos of Jersey cows? They’re so adorable! But Jersey Cows have more going for them than their fawn-colored appearances and pleasant personalities. Jersey Cows are also famous for being small – roughly 1,000 pounds, friendly, and commendable dairy cows. How can you lose?

Jersey cows are a much smaller cow breed compared to the Holstein. Jersey cows are brown; they are also known for their large, beautiful eyes. 

Jersey cows first originated from Britain and then made their way to America in the 1850s.

Jersey cows are friendly creatures, and they are easy to handle. Due to their small size, Jersey cows need less feed and grazing area to stay healthy compared to other dairy cows on this list. 

These beautiful Jersey cows can produce around eight to ten gallons of milk per day.

Jersey cows produce high-quality milk that is ideal for farm-fresh cheese and butter! The milk from Jersey cows has a lovely creamy texture – resulting in thick, rich, delicious cheese that tastebuds will love.

Read More – Here’s How to Keep Flies Off Cattle!

# 3 – Brown Swiss Cow

Holsteins aren’t the only heavy-hitting heifers on this list of best dairy cows! Brown Swiss cows deserve a top spot for their impressive milk production rates and pleasant temperament. Brown Swiss cow milk is also highly regarded for making thick, rich, delicious cheese. Some dairy farmers swear that Brown Swiss cows are the best for cheese. Talk about bonus points!

Brown Swiss cows have the reputation as one of the oldest breeds of cows in existence today.

Brown Swiss cows are originally from Switzerland and arrived in America in 1869.

Brown Swiss cows are also known to have big furry ears! They are also widely considered the second most productive dairy cows. 

Their milk is perfect for making cheese as it has a close fat to protein ratio, making the cheese full and creamy. These cows are remarkably docile, and they are friendly and easy to handle. 

The Brown Swiss cows are generally around the same size as the Holstein cows, which means that they require a large amount of feed and gazing space to remain healthy and at peak milk production.

# 4 – Guernsey Cow

Guernsey cows have excellent adaptability as mid-sized cows and possess outstanding reputations for their economy and mild manners! As you lock eyes with these two stellar Guernsey cow specimens, also notice the clearly defined fawn-and-white designs that make them easy to recognize even from afar.

Guernsey Cows are highly regarded and are known as The Royal Breed as their milk sports a delicious golden color.

Some of my curious homesteaders might ask – but why is the Guernsey cow’s milk golden? A great question!

The Guernsey cow provides golden color milk because the milk has a high amount of beta carotene! Beta carotene is a tremendous source of vitamin A – but it also seems to give the milk a golden color. 

Guernsey cows hail from Britain, but many homesteaders and farmers believe that Guernsey cows originated from two French cow breeds. The Guernsey cow then made its way to the United States of America in the 1840s.

Guernsey cows are excellent for hand milking and are a favorite among small farms as they are friendly and docile. 

Due to the Guernsey cow’s smaller size, they require less grazing space! They also need less feed to keep them healthy and producing a good amount of milk.

Read More – Can Cows Eat Apples? Even Fermented Apples?

# 5 – Ayrshire Cow

Other than the iconic Holstein cow, Ayrshire cows are the most recognizable by how they look! The first thing you’ll notice about Ayrshire cows is their brownish-red and white color scheme. Some Ayrshire cows have a solid color (white or red) decorating their entire hide – with few accents. Other Ayrshire cows have an equal balance of cascading white and red.

Ayrshire cows are orangey-brown cows in color and are known for being long-living and hardy cows. These cows used to be called Dunlops, but it is unknown why their name changed. 

Ayrshire cows originated from Scotland and arrived in America in the 1820s

Ayrshire cows do tend to be more dominant compared to other cow breeds. They can sometimes be tricky to handle, but if you have some experience with cows – you should not have much of a problem managing them.

These cows are one of the most massive dairy cow breeds, and their milk production ranges between that of a Jersey cow and a Holstein cow. 

Due to their size, Ayrshire Cows require a large grazing area and a good supply of feed to keep their milk production up and keep them healthy. These cows can produce anywhere from 4 – 6 gallons of milk every day – or more.

# 6 – Milking Shorthorn Cow

Shorthorns have been around in the USA for hundreds of years! They became popular due to their versatility and their kind demeanor. Today – milking shorthorns are found throughout the USA, Australia, Canada, and the UK and gladly serve as excellent dairy cows!

Milking Shorthorn cows are known to be extremely easy to handle, which is why they were one of the first cow breeds to become world travelers early on. 

Milking shorthorn cows first originated from England, and they were the first dairy cows brought to New Zealand, America, and Australia in the 1780s.

Milking Shorthorn cows are highly efficient grazers – and they require less feed compared to other cow breeds. However, they also need some feed to ensure they get enough nutrients to produce a good milk supply. 

These cows are docile and friendly, making them perfect for a small farm or homestead. They can produce roughly 4.2 gallons of milk daily. 

# 7 – Dexter Cow

When it comes to the best dairy cow breed, Dexter cows never get enough respect! Dexter cows are easily some of the tiniest cows you’ll encounter – yet they have a reputation as surprisingly desirable dual-purpose cow breeds. Dexters can produce a surprising amount of milk for their small size – and they’re also gentle and friendly. They’re a win/win!

Dexter cows rule – and if you want a tiny cow for your homestead, then a Dexter cow may be the best cow for milk!

The Dexter cow breed was originally Irish but then imported into America around 1910.

Dexter cows are highly popular with small farms and homesteads as they are much smaller cows, but they still provide a good amount of milk for their size. 

Dexter cows will generally reach about 3.2 ft at the shoulder when they are fully grown.

The small size of Dexter cows has a few advantages! Dexter cows do not require much grazing space or extra feed to keep them healthy. 

Dexter cows are also a lot lighter compared to other cow breeds! Their comparatively small impact can lessen damage to the soil and the pasture that they walk on.

These small cows can produce three gallons of milk in a day, which is perfect for supplying milk for a family. Dexters are also friendly and cute little creatures that the whole family will enjoy looking after!

Best Cow for Milk FAQs

As a new dairy farmer or someone looking for the best dairy cow for your homestead – you’ll probably encounter a litany of cow raising questions. But fear not! We’ve brainstormed some of the most popular dairy cow FAQs, and we want to share them with you. We hope this helps!

If you’re trying to find the best dairy cow breed for your homestead – or if you’re trying to find the best cow for milk – then read our answers to common FAQs below.

Read More – 5 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes!

Please Share Your Best Milk for Cow Questions and Experience!

The cows in this list above are some of the best dairy cow breeds for homesteaders as they are generally easy to handle and manage.

They produce a good amount of milk, too!

Some of them are heavier breeds and will require more feed and grazing space, but most of them are small enough to have on a nice-sized piece of land without any issues.

Good luck choosing the best dairy cow for your homestead!

If you have any cow or dairy milk questions – or experiences raising cows that you can share – please comment below!

Thanks so much for reading!

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  1. You have NO tastebuds and you have NO olifactory nerves or Holsteins would not ever make it above the bottom of a list of the top 25 milk cows. Having spent time as a child on the farm with Guernseys, Jerseys, Brown Swiss, and cross breeds, I can state with great confidence that even milk coming from cows that are half Guernsey and half white faced hereford beef cattle always still rank a far richer satisfying milk than any Holstein. (Same goes for the heifer calves that have a Jersey for a mother and a Hereford for a Father) The only people in the world who like what Holsteins give are people who hate cream and love diluting their milk with tapwater because they are afraid that the taste of cream will give them hardening of the arteries.

    Ray Tilton

    1. Hi Ray! Thanks for sharing your opinion. We chose Holsteins as the top pick since they produce more milk per day than most other cows. No accounting for taste!

      Thanks again for your feedback, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

    2. Dear Aimee Aimee LaFon,
      Thank you for your sweet note. You were in the right with your article and I was only trying to accentuate my prejudicial favorites. If a farmer’s interest in cattle is to have milk to sell, Holsteins do produce prodigious amounts of milk. My experience with the Breeds I listed only represents my Grandparents’ farm that raised milk cows for their own family and friends. Their homestead was in Eastern Montana and part of the first and second Homestead Acts. They held on to their farms through several very hard times though, when they first moved out there from Minnesota in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s , their farms had grasses that grew so tall they thought they had really found the promised land until the drought years came. Their children lived lives that generally went up to and past 100 years without the problems associated with osteoporosis. (The whole family had daily milk in their diets till they passed away.) So, the milk from cows was for our own consumption. My grandparents and uncles kept the herd of beef cattle for the sale of the beef and you probably guessed that they could not afford Bulls to get the milk cows pregnant so every year, it was up to the Beef Bulls to get the milk cows pregnant for next year’s milk. Kind Regards. Ray

  2. Asl these cow’s milk is not good for human health. Though all these cows produce good amount of milk but their milk is not healthy for humans.

    1. @Kapil,

      Raw cow’s milk is one of the most nutrient dense foods a human can consume. Besides red meat. Go to YouTube and look up Dr. Ken Berry and learn about the proper human diet. We’ve all been lied to our entire lives. Healthy humans makes empty money coffers for Big Pharma and Big Medicine and the Food Giants in America. BTW, all major food giant companies in the US are owned by Big Tobacco. It’s a deep rabbit hole. Happy researching! But mostly, happy awakening <3

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