Here is How Much Milk You’ll Get From Your Family Cow

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

New to farming? Or maybe you’re thinking about getting a dairy cow to provide your family with all the milk it needs?

Smart choice! With the proper care and nutrition, your cows can provide your family with fresh, wholesome milk for years to come.

But how much milk does a cow produce? And how much milk can you expect from your family cow?

Keep reading to learn more!

How Much Milk Does a Cow Produce?

The average dairy cow getting milked two to three times per day will produce around seven gallons of milk daily. The amount of milk a cow makes varies slightly depending on the age and health of the cow, its breed, and other factors – like when the cow was last bred.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the average cow will produce around 2,320 gallons of milk per year. We’re talking over twenty thousand pounds of milk per year. That’s a lot of milk! We would need at least 50,000 homemade cookies to handle that much milk.

(A plethora of cookies! Chocolate chip, pistachio, and peanut butter crunch.)

holstein dairy cows in rural farm field
How much milk do cows produce in the USA? How do hundreds of billions of pounds per year sound? In 2019, cows from the USA made 218 billion pounds of milk. The average milk production of dairy cows in the USA was 2,031 pounds – just in January 2020.

How Much Milk Can a Cow Produce a Day?

Did you know that, in the last 40 years, milk production has doubled in the United States? The average dairy cow produces approximately 7.5 gallons of milk each day – and as dairy farmers and homesteaders, we’re only getting better at finding ways to make cows more productive.

All cows, regardless of breed, produce milk when they deliver a calf. About ten months after a cow-calf, milk production decreases substantially. The cow will undergo a drying-off period and needs to be re-bred to keep producing milk.

A cow can calve again when her last calf is about 12 to 14 months old. Most farmers breed their calves annually to make sure they produce milk regularly. Breeding may occur via artificial insemination about three months after having the first calf, meaning a cow will be pregnant and still produce milk.

(We also read that cows without a dry-off period may produce twenty-five to thirty-five percent less milk!)

Here’s another fascinating nuance about cow milk production. We find that cows produce a ton of daily milk on the farm! Likely far more than the amount needed naturally to feed a calf. If a cow made just enough milk to feed a calf, it would need about a gallon per day – instead of nearly eight!

(We’ve also seen plenty of calves drink more milk than a gallon daily. Some are thirstier than others! But – seven or eight gallons of milk per day is still a ton.)

Like humans and other mammals, cows only make milk in the months after giving birth to a calf. Artificial insemination is the most common method of breeding a cow. But you can also keep a bull to breed your cows more naturally if you wish.

There are a few other variables to consider when determining how much milk a cow produces. We’ll go into more detail about these below.

Read More – How Much Do Dairy Cows Cost?

What Breed of Cow Produces the Most Milk?

Holstein cows, for sure! But – again, all cows, regardless of breed, will produce milk. Some high production cows produce milk for about three years and then get culled for beef.

These are usually cows from highly productive breeds. The most common milk production breed is a hybrid between the Holstein and Friesian breeds. (Many farmers call them Holsteins. Others call them Holstein-Friesians.)

Either way, Holstein-Friesians are the most popular dairy cow in the United States and Europe. They are famous for their unrivaled milk production.

Holsteins produce the vastest volume of milk but don’t have the best feed conversion abilities. But Friesian cows, on the other hand, do quite well on limited feed, hence the hybridization.

Another popular breed is the Jersey, which we will discuss more below.

The Brown Swiss is another productive breed. Although it only produces around 2,600 gallons of milk per breeding cycle, it has a higher butterfat and protein content than other productive breeds. It also has a reputation for being rugged and hardy, a good choice for homesteaders in harsh climates.

Guernseys are also common. They are known for the yellowish color that their milk has. They’re small dairy cows but productive, generating around 1,700 gallons of milk with a whopping 4.5% butterfat each cycle.

Some less common dairy cow breeds for your homestead include the Ayrshire, Milking Shorthorn, Icelandic, and Red And White.

adorable holstein calf resting on straw on pennsylvania farm
Here’s an adorable baby Holstein! Holstein cows are the undisputed champions of the milk production world. Holsteins can produce upwards of 25,000 pounds of milk per lactation. Each lactation lasts about one year. They’re also the most easily recognizable dairy cows!

How Much Milk Does a Jersey Cow Produce Per Day?

Originally from the island of Jersey off the coast of France, Jerseys don’t make the highest volume of milk. But the quality of their milk is often said to be some of the best. I concur – their milk is delicious!

There’s a reason why the Jersey cow’s milk tastes so good.

Jerseys have more butterfat in their milk than other breeds of dairy cows. It has a fat content of around 4.9% and a protein content of about 3.7%. As you might expect, Jersey milk is ideal for making butter and other dairy products.

Jerseys produce around six gallons of high-butter-fat milk each day.

jersey cow herd in the field at dusk
Jerseys are also wildly popular milk producers. Justifiably so! They weigh around 900 pounds, so they are smaller than Holsteins. But they are efficient grazers and more heat tolerant. Their milk also has loads of protein and fats – so their milk tastes rich and creamy.

How Much Milk Does a Holstein Cow Produce Per Day?

The Holstein is a breed that originated in Europe and was brought to the United States by Dutch settlers. With the highest milk production of all cow breeds, a single Holstein cow can make about nine gallons of milk each day.

For obvious reasons? The Holstein is the dominant dairy breed in the United States. It’s also a favorite for delicious and abundant milk.

Read More – What Do Cows Eat? Other Than Hay?!

What is the Average Milk Production Per Cow?

Again, the average cow will produce around six to seven gallons of milk each day. The precise amount depends on the breed. As you can see from the information above, the dairy breed isn’t the only factor to consider.

Comfort is also an overwhelming factor. The amount of milk that a cow produces will depend heavily on how comfortable it is.

If you live in a temperate climate that doesn’t have extremely hot or bitterly cold weather, your cows will likely produce more milk. (Heat tends to be more damaging to milk production than cold, by the way.)

Feed quality can also impact how much milk your cow produces, as can accommodations. When cows have a high-quality feed and more room to rest and graze, they’ll be more productive.

The cleanliness of a space can impact milk production, too, as it reduces the likelihood of mastitis and other diseases that can cause a dip in milk production.

Sick cows, in general, produce less milk, and the milk they do make is of poor quality. How long a cow is allowed to be dry between calvings impacts milk production, as does milking frequency and age.

brown swiss cow grazing in field
Here’s another heavy-hitting milk producer. The Brown Swiss! These cows are one of the oldest breeds. They can also produce around 23,090 pounds of milk during a single lactation. We hope you’re thirsty.

More Resources for Cows and Dairy Milk

We know that raising cows for milk is a ton of fun. It’s also a lot of work!

Cows are also tremendously rewarding if you give them a chance.

We made a list of the best books for cattle ranchers and dairy cow enthusiasts.

We hope you enjoy reading them!

  1. The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook - Recipes and Reflections from a Small Vermont Dairy

    Let's travel to a small Vermont dairy famous for mouth-watering buttermilk cooking! This book by Diane St. Clair is the best we've found for cooking with farm-fresh buttermilk. The book teaches how to make delectable farm-fresh goodies using milk! Recipes include breakfasts, soups, salads, dressings, cakes, pies, desserts, and bread. If you want to turn your fresh cow milk into sweet and savory goodies, this book is one of our favorites.

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    06/12/2024 11:36 am GMT
  2. The Dairy Good Cookbook - Comfort Food from America's Dairy Farm Families

    Dairy farming comes with a ton of perks. The most critical is the yummy food! This book is a favorite for dairy farmers who love cooking with fresh butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese. You'll learn to prepare delicious farm favorites and goodies like apricot dijon pork chops, macaroni and cheese, the dairyman's chocolate cake, and apple cheddar pizza. (Yes, please!)

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    06/12/2024 04:32 pm GMT
  3. Milk Soapmaking - The Smart Guide to Making Milk Soap

    Homemade milk soap feels smooth, relaxing, and refreshing on your skin - doubly so if you've been working in the fields, paddocks, and garden all day! Anne L. Watson wants to show you everything about making soaps from cow milk, buttermilk, coconut milk, cream, or plant and animal milk. She makes the entire process easy. And she also promises to answer questions from readers after you finish the book. Sweet!

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    06/12/2024 09:41 am GMT


So how much milk does a cow produce? It depends on the breed of cow and the diet it’s given, but generally, cows will produce around six to eight gallons of milk per day.

With this information in mind, it’s easy to see that raising dairy cows is well worth the effort – especially if you want fresh, delicious, and nutritious milk on your dinner table each night.

What about you?

How much milk do your cows make each day? Around six to eight gallons? Or maybe a little more, or less?

We would love to hear about your experience!

Thanks for reading.

Have a great day!

Read More – 275+ Hilarious and Cute Cow Names!

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