The animals shown in the image gallery are
examples of the breeds of beef cattle most commonly raised
in the U.S. All have been specially bred to produce large
amounts of meat at low cost. Actually, much of the beef marketed in this country comes
from dairy cattle: unpromising heifers, unproductive cows,
and males not wanted for breeding. Bull calves raised for
food are castrated for safer handling and improved meat.
Steers of any breed can also be trained as work animals . .
. in which case they’re called oxen.
Breeds of Dairy and Beef Cattle
The Santa Gertrudis is a Shorthorn-Brahman cross developed
on the King Ranch in Texas and is suited to hot, humid
climates. Its tolerance for heat is inherited from the
Brahman (or Zebu), a humped breed of Indian origin which
thrives in this country’s southern coastal regions.
Herefords (“whitefaces”) are eager grazers and the most
popular American beef breed. The one shown in the image gallery belongs to
the Polled (hornless) strain. The fast-gaining, easily
reared Shorthorn also occurs in a polled form. A second
variation — the Milking Shorthorn — is raised for
both beef and dairy use.
The black Aberdeen-Angus (plain Angus to most of us) is a
hornless breed that produces “marbled” beef of very high
Next are cows of the dairy breeds. The
gentle, sensitive Jersey is the smallest in size and yield
(two to four gallons a day of rich milk, with a butterfat
content of over 5 percent). The calmer golden Guernsey cow’s
milk is slightly more abundant and contains somewhat less
The docile Brown Swiss — one of the oldest dairy
breeds — gives pure white milk with a high level of
non-fat solids, minerals, and lactose . . . excellent for
Like the Brown Swiss, the long-horned Ayrshire is a fairly
heavy producer (between Guernsey and Holstein). It’s hardy
and thrives in hill country.
The largest and most popular milk cow is the
Holstein-Friesian (Holstein in the U.S. and Friesian in
Great Britain). She’s a placid creature, and her milk
contains only 3.7 percent butterfat but is given in great
abundance. . . six gallons or more per day.