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Types of Cows

Brief Descriptions of the Main Types of Cows

Although there are over 800 different breeds on the planet, there are four main types of cows that are distinguished by their purposes and uses. This article will give a brief overview and description of these types of cows, including beef cows, dairy cows, draught cows, and even dual and multipurpose cattle.

Beef Cattle

Beef cattle, as their name clearly suggests, are types of cows that are raised primarily for meat production. They are good for other uses as well though, providing resources for leatherwork and even some toiletries and cosmetics.

Beef cattle can be found across the world, spanning from Japan to Australia, and even Africa and Mexico for some breeds.  These breeds usually fall into two individual groups of cattle; the taurine and the zebu cattle. Taurine cattle are more suited to colder climates, and zebu cattle can live quite easily in Africa and South American tropical climates.

The amount of cattle ranches in America seem to be dwindling as of late. The economy has not been kind to the family owned ranches, and beef is now largely produced and distributed by large corporate ranches and slaughterhouses.

Dairy Cows

Dairy cows are bred for their ability to produce large amounts of milk that is then processed and used in the production of dairy products like homogenized milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt. There are six different breeds of American dairy cows, falling under the species Bos taurus. These six popular breeds include the Guernsey, Holstein-Friesian, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, Jersey, and Milking Shorthorn. There are other breeds used in different parts of the world, however.

In the past there had been little distinction between dairy and beef cattle, but this has changed, and now farmers and ranchers specialize in dairy or meat production. In fact, dairy production has doubled in America since the 1950s. This is largely due to hormone injections and forced ovulation of the dairy cattle, because despite the increase in milk, dairy cow numbers have actually been reduced by 40%.

Draught Cattle

Draught cattle are typically put to work and utilized for their muscular power. One can typically see draught cattle being put to work in fields, helping farmer plow and ready the soil. While horses are also considered draught animals, cattle have the ability to pull heavier loads and can work for longer periods of time. Cattle are considered to be less excitable than horses, as well; making them much more preferable in many situations regarding unpaved roads and unplowed fields. As a downside to this, they are slower than horses and therefore unable to cover as much ground in a given period of time. Their even keel and steadier fashion, however, more than makes up for this. In fact, many loggers use them to help haul away chopped tree trunks; a very precise and dangerous task.

Thanks to the invention of the yoke, cattle have been able to be used for many reasons; their incredible strength able to be harnessed and utilized to break sod and haul freight. Some countries even boast cattle drawn transportation.

Dual-purpose Cattle

Some types of cows lend themselves to more than simply being used for dairy or meat purposes. Several kinds of cattle are commonly used for both meat and dairy, or meat and draught purposes. In some cases, the cattle are bred for show as well. Some people frown upon dual-purpose cattle, saying that the meat or dairy production is sub-par, but many homesteads are able to keep afloat utilizing as many aspects of the cattle as humanly possible. Some farmers and ranchers even use their cows as a natural way to prevent field overgrowth.

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