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Raising A2 Cattle for Healthier Milk on Your Homestead

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A2 cows are perfect for homesteaders, farmers, or ranchers who want easily digestible, nutritious, and delicious milk. Raising A2 cows is just like raising regular A1 cows. But, there are a few A1 vs. A2 cow nuances dairy producers should know. Let’s explore the subtleties of raising these unique A2-milk-producing bovines in detail.

Lovely Normande cows exploring their farmyard pasture on a beautiful day.

Shall we?

Understanding A2 Milk

There are two types of milk proteins you should know about for purposes of this guide – A1 beta-casein and A2 beta-caseinA1 beta-casein protein is common in most commercial dairy milk and can cause digestive discomfort for some. Luckily, A2 milk doesn’t contain any A1 beta-casein. It only has A2 beta-casein. A2 milk has a reputation for being gentler on the stomach.

This reputation of A2 milk has made it increasingly popular among those with mild milk sensitivities.

In other words – we are tremendous proponents of A2 milk. It has an excellent reputation among those who experience tummy aches after drinking regular A1 milk.

We also read that A1 milk may have a higher association with heart disease and type 1 diabetes. While there is no rock-solid proof of this position, we find the observational studies fascinating and will continue to monitor for new updates.

Selecting The Right A2 Cattle Breeds

An adorable Jersey cow herd exploring a green pasture.

Certain cow breeds, such as Guernseys, Jerseys, Brown Swiss, and Normande, are naturally inclined to produce A2 milk. They’re also perfect for their adaptability to small-scale farming environments. Their smaller size (compared to Holsteins or Simmentals) means less feed consumption and space requirements, making them suitable for homesteads with limited resources.

Related – How Long Does Raw Milk Last + How To Store And Freeze It

Our Favorite Cattle Breeds For A2 Milk Production

Any cow breed has the potential to carry the genetic makeup (A2A2) that leads to milk predominantly containing the A2 type of beta-casein protein. However, the following breeds make excellent A2 milk, produce A2 milk naturally, or have reputations for doing so.

Brown Swiss Cows

Brown Swiss cow grazing for breakfast on a lush mountain pasture in Switzerland.

Brown Swiss cows are famous for their gentle demeanor and distinct gray-brown coloring. You’ll notice many have lovely light muzzles and dark, dreamy eyes. They have a high likelihood of producing delicious A2 milk. They’re an excellent choice for homesteaders since they can adapt to various environments and farming practices.

Jersey Cows

Adorable Jersey cow and herd grazing in the pasture on a sunny day.

Jersey cows are famous for their yellowish-brown coats and friendly disposition. These cows produce more milk than you’d expect since they’re on the smaller side. They’re known for their yummy, cream-like milk that works perfectly for making cheese and butter.

Guernsey Cows

Heavy-hitting guernsey heifer grazing in the green meadow.

Guernsey cows have impressive light-to-medium brown and white coats. They also have reputations for yummy, golden-colored A2 milk with ample butterfat and protein. They are excellent grazers and make a fun, laid-back breed.

Limousin Cows

Adorable Limousin calf in stable making eye contact and waiting for breakfast.

Limousin cows bear a lovely golden-red color. They’re markedly muscular and famous for their excellent feed conversion and high-quality, lean meat. Their ability to convert food to muscle mass makes them a superb beef cow. Limousins are mostly livestock. We also find it intriguing that they produce A2 milk naturally.

Normande Cows

Colorful Normande cows foraging in the grass on a lovely sunny day.

Normande cows are another beautiful A2 breed exhibiting a unique brindle pattern. They’re also a dual-purpose breed offering both high-quality milk and beef. Their milk is known for its richness and is well-suited for yummy cheese production. They also possess superb meat qualities.

Charolais Cows

Epic and muscular Charolais cows foraging in the green meadow.

Charolais are strikingly fit farmyard creatures with white or creamy coats. Many ranchers regard them as highly muscular beef cattle with impressive growth rates and meat.

Ranchers love Charolais for their outstanding carcass quality, efficient feed conversion, and lean meat. But, what many homesteaders need to realize is that Charolais cows also produce delicious A2 milk naturally.

Each of these breeds brings unique advantages to a homesteading environment. When selecting the right A2 breed for your homestead, consider factors like climate, available space, farming style, and whether you seek purely milk production or a dual-purpose animal.

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

Breeding Strategies For A2 Milk

A beautiful Limousin cow grazing in the meadow with a curious countenance.

Some cows, like the A2 cattle above, produce A2 milk naturally. You can also breed for A2 production. In other words – homesteaders can implement selective breeding practices for A2 milk. But, transforming your herd into an all-A2-producing herd can take a few generations.

We know how cow genetics can get confusing. But in this case, it’s easy. Just remember that A2A2 cows produce pure A2 milk. And A1A1 cows produce pure A1 milk. And there are also mixed cows or A1A2 cows. A1A2 cows produce a mixture of A1 and A2 milk.

We made an A1 vs. A2 cow table below to make things easy.

Cow VarietyMilk And Offspring
A1A1 CowsA1A1 cows produce pure A1 milk. Two A1A1 cows will always produce A1A1 offspring.
A2A2 CowsA2A2 cows produce pure A2 milk. Two A2A2 cows will always produce A2A2 Offspring.
A1A2 CowsA1A2 cows are a mix of A1A1 and A2A2 cows. They make milk with A1 and A2 protein.
A1, A2, and A1A2 Cow Milk And Genetics

The bottom line is that if you want your herd to produce A2 milk exclusively, all cows must have A2A2 genotypes! Do you need clarification about your herd’s A1/A2 status? Well, there’s good news. Testing a cow costs only about five bucks.

It also appears that the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at UC Davis will test your cow for approximately $40. (You might find a test kit cheaper in your area.)

Caring For A2 Cattle In 6 Easy Steps

Several ranching friends asked us about raising and caring for A2 cows. The truth is that raising A2 cows is virtually identical to raising an A1 cow or an A1A2 cow! However, you should know a few nuances regarding A2 cattle breeds like Guernsey and Jersey.

  • They thrive on quality pasture and forage.
  • Their tiny stature makes them much easier to manage, especially for new homesteaders.

We also penned a 6-step process for raising and caring for Guernsey, Jersey, and other A2 cows.

1. Provide Adequate Shelter

Guernsey and Jersey cows are hardy breeds. But they still need a dry, draft-free shelter to protect them from the elements. The shelter should be well-ventilated and have enough space for the cows to move around comfortably.

A good rule of thumb for cow shelter space is about forty square feet per cow in a free-stall barn, stable, or loose-housing system. Forty square feet grants adequate room for the cow to comfortably lie down, stand up, and move around without feeling crowded. However, the exact space requirement can vary based on factors like the size of the cows, barnyard layout, and your unique farmyard management practices.

2. Feed Them A Balanced Diet

A2 cows require a balanced diet with forage, hay, silage, and grain. The food amount needed varies based on feed quality and the cow’s age, breed, weight, and production stage. Your A2 cows also need access to fresh water at all times. 

You should always consult a veterinarian or a cow nutritionist to create a diet plan that meets your cow’s needs.

3. Keep Them Clean

Cleanliness is vital for the health of your A2 cows. You should regularly clean their shelter and provide them with clean bedding. Keep their coats healthy by regularly grooming them.

4. Monitor Their Health

Offer your A2 cows frequent vet checkups. In addition to their regular veterinarian visits, you should also monitor them for abnormalities. Look for signs of illness, including changes in behavior or appetite.

5. Give Them Exercise

Guernsey and Jersey cows are active grazers and love regular foraging. You should provide them with enough space to move around and graze. The amount of space your cows require varies according to the cow’s size and pasture quality. However, one and a half to two acres per cow is a safe rule of thumb.

6. Care For Your Cows With Love

Treat your A2 cows with care and respect. Your cows are surprisingly intelligent creatures! They can form a strong bond with you. Treat them well so that they live long, happy lives. They’ll reward you with plenty of A2 protein-packed milk. Everyone wins!

Raising A2 cows is just like any other cow! We hope our process above helps you figure out how to care for your cow with great success.

Related – How To Make Butter From Raw Milk Step-By-Step

Historical Context Of A2 Milk

An impressive Limousin cow herd foraging for an afternoon snack in the fields.

The story of A2 milk begins with an understanding of the evolution of dairy cattle and the milk they produce. Milk contains several types of proteins, and one of the primary proteins is beta-casein. Historically, all domesticated cows made milk with only the A2 type of beta-casein. This protein makeup changed around 8,000 years ago. A mutation (we believe it started in European dairy herds) led to the appearance of A1 beta-casein.

The distinction between A1 and A2 milk remained largely unnoticed until the late 20th century. In the 1990s, Dr. Corran McLachlan, a New Zealand-based scientist, observed a correlation between the type of milk protein consumed and the incidence of health issues like heart disease and diabetes. This correlation led to further research, which revealed that the digestive discomfort might be related to the A1 protein.

This discovery sparked interest in A2 milk as a healthier alternative. Eventually, Corran started the A2 Milk Company, a New Zealand business. They formed in the year 2000. They successfully marketed their yummy milk with predominantly A2 protein. Their efforts and growing consumer awareness helped propel A2 milk into the spotlight as a viable and healthier alternative to regular dairy milk.

A2 milk’s reputation as a distinct and potentially more beneficial milk has since gained traction globally. It has increased the popularity of traditional dairy breeds known for producing A2 milk, like the Guernsey and Jersey cows. Today, A2 milk is not just a health choice but also a lifestyle choice for many, reflecting a shift towards more natural and digestible dairy products.

Nutritional Profile Comparison: A2 Milk Vs. Regular Milk

Two glasses of delicious A1 and A2 milk.

Let’s delve deeper into the nutritional profiles of both types of milk.

Protein Content

The primary difference is in the type of beta-casein protein. A2 milk contains only the A2 type of beta-casein, which has a reputation for being gentler to digest for some individuals. A2 and regular A1 milk contain similar protein levels, about 8 grams per cup. (Some cow breeds produce milk with more protein.)

Fat Content

The fat content in both A2 and regular milk is generally similar, with variations depending on whether the milk is whole, 2%, 1%, or skim. The type of cows and their diet can influence the fatty acid profile. However, the fatty acid does not appear directly related to the A1 or A2 protein type.

Vitamins And Minerals

Both types of milk offer a rich array of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, like protein, potassium, calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. The levels of these nutrients are comparable in A2 and regular milk.

Lactose Content

Both A2 and regular milk contain lactose. However, the presence of A2 beta-casein does not affect the lactose content. So, those with lactose intolerance would experience similar symptoms with both types of milk.

Digestibility

Several anecdotes suggest that A2 milk is easier on the stomach for some individuals. You can likely find many reviews from dairy consumers who swear that A2 milk is easily digested compared to A1 milk. That said – more extensive research is needed to understand these effects.

Health Implications

We’ve searched for over a week for any definite proof regarding the health implications of A1 versus A2 milk. A handful of studies suggest that A2 milk might be a more beneficial choice for individuals who experience discomfort with regular milk. Since these findings are on a small scale, they are promising but inconclusive.

The nutritional profiles of A2 and regular milk are similar regarding macro and micronutrients. Both contain ample calcium, protein, potassium, vitamin D, and B12.

As we continue researching, we may learn more about the potential health benefits of A2 milk.

We’ll also upgrade this area if we find more studies indicating that A2 milk is easier on the tummy – which we believe it is!

Related – Here Is How Much Milk You’ll Get From Your Family Cow

A2 Milk Markets For Ranchers, Farmers, And Homesteaders

Farmer pouring delicious farmyard milk into a large cylinder.

Many homesteaders love raising A2 cows for a personal supply of delicious milk. But what if you’re a dairy farmer who wants to sell the milk? Is it worth the effort?

It’s difficult to say whether or not the popularity of A2 milk will skyrocket in the future. However, we are confident that the increasing consumer awareness of health and wellness and specialized dairy preferences position A2 milk as an exciting niche dairy industry segment.

We love A2 milk’s potential for the following reasons.

1. Rising Health Consciousness

The global shift towards healthier and more digestible dairy options can fuel more demand for A2 milk. As more consumers become aware of the potential digestive benefits of A2 milk over regular milk, its market share can expand. This prospect may provide an excellent opportunity for homesteaders and farmers to cater to a health-conscious consumer base.

2. Niche Market Growth

A2 milk, once a niche product, is gradually becoming mainstream. This transition is driven by increasing availability in supermarkets and health food stores, making it more accessible to a broader audience. This potential growing demand means ample opportunities to tap into local and regional markets. Consider promoting either through direct sales or partnerships with retailers.

3. Technological Advancements In Dairy Farming

Advancements in dairy farming technology and genetic testing are making it easier for farmers to breed cows that produce A2 milk. These technologies allow for more efficient breeding programs and better herd management, enabling homesteaders to optimize their production of A2 milk.

4. Potential For Value-Added Products

There is a passionate interest in artisanal and value-added dairy products made from A2 milk, such as cheese, yogurt, fudge, butter, and ice cream. Farmers or small-scale homesteaders can explore these avenues to diversify their product offerings and increase profitability.

5. Global Market Expansion

While A2 milk has gained significant traction in countries like Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, there is potential for growth in other regions. Dairy farmers can monitor global trends and explore opportunities for exporting A2 milk products, especially in budding markets.

Staying Ahead In The A2 Dairy Niche

The future of the A2 milk market looks promising. To capitalize on these trends, dairy farmers should focus on helping us spread the word about A2 milk! Also, continue your efforts raising happy and healthy cattle. Your reputation as a wholesome homestead farm will make your cow’s milk demand skyrocket more than anything else. 🙂

Raising A2 cattle for healthier milk.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading our guide about raising A2 cattle for delicious milk that’s easy to digest.

We know many of our homesteading friends are curious about A2 milk. And the good news is that raising A2 cows is identical to raising A1 (or A1A2) cows!

What about you?

  • Do you think A2 milk is easier on the stomach? Or is it marketing hype?
  • What’s your favorite type of A2 cow?
  • What are your thoughts on A1A2 cows? These cows produce milk with A1 and A2 milk!
  • Do you agree that Jersey cows are some of the most adorable A2 cows?
  • Do you think A2 milk will become more popular in the coming years?

We love networking with fellow cattle ranchers, dairy farmers, homesteaders, and milk enthusiasts. So, we hope to hear from you!

Thanks again for reading.

Have a great day!

Continue Reading:

Raising A2 Cattle for Healthier Milk – Resources, Field Guides, And References:

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2 Comments

  1. I have wanted to get A2 cows for awhile. My problem: 5 acres including house, and I also want to have beef. I know milk cows don’t have much in the way of ‘body’ for meat raising. I thought I’d get a milk COW and then a beef breed for the bull. Any thoughts? I know there are dual breeds, but don’t know if any have the A2 gene…..
    Aside from these thoughts, thought about a mini breed, but am not sure about “hybrids”…OR Dexters or Scotish Highlands…..
    Any suggestions? Thank you!

    1. Hey Carol!

      I love how A2 cows are gaining popularity these days!

      Jersey cows are my favorite A2 cows overall. They’re a superb choice for a small homestead of 5 acres. Jerseys produce delicious buttery milk, are smaller than average, and are adorable sweethearts.

      Jerseys are also famous for yummy, gentle A2 milk.

      (Jersey cows aren’t the best beef breeds. But they’re not a lost cause, either. So, you could pick Jersey Cows if you wanted.)

      I also understand your hesitation in choosing Dexters, mini cows, and all the potential dwarfism issues with them.

      That said, two smaller beef cow breeds that immediately come to mind for your use case are Belted Galloways and Lowline Angus cattle.

      Both breeds have tremendous attitudes, are medium-sized, and don’t require much acreage compared to heavier beef cows.

      Also, I must confess that I’m madly in love with the Scottish Highland. They would be one of my top choices. (They’re so majestic-looking. And they can survive nearly anywhere, even in the freezing Massachusetts weather where I live!)

      Also, Elle knows ten times more about Lowline Angus cows than I ever will. She’s a tremendous proponent and raises them. From what I can tell, they are super hardy, strong, and compact.

      Thanks again for reading.

      Have a beautiful day!

      (Please keep us informed if you decide to buy some cows. We’d love to see them!)

      Cordially,

      Mike D

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