meta Holstein vs. Jersey – What Color of Dairy Breed Is the Real Money Maker? :: The Bullvine - The Dairy Information You Want To Know When You Need It

Holstein vs. Jersey – What Color of Dairy Breed Is the Real Money Maker?

A recent headline in Hoard’s Dairyman proclaimed “Brown is the Color of Money” and that’s all it took for “The Hunt Family Feud” to take off over phone, email and Facebook.  With roots in Holsteins, dairy nutrition and dairy genetics, the perfect ingredients were present for arguments, controversy and loud proclamations of bull* –all of which are highly esteemed in the Hunt family.

Can you Measure the Difference?

This debate is fueled by a lot of things but every good argument needs actual facts. Inputs of feed, facility, equipment and staff may be impacted by the size differential between Holsteins and Jerseys.  Smaller animals may correspondingly require less inputs.  We have to recognize that “may” is the operative word here because there are different variables depending on each particular dairy operation.

One size variable that can’t be ignored is that dairy herd size is growing.  Faced with this scenario, there may be good reasons for choosing one breed over another or for having a combination of breeds on a single operation. Choice might be influenced by:

  • Specific markets
  • Relative health issues between breeds
  • Calving ease
  • Initial investment and sources for replacements

Many questions have to be answered, before a winner can be named.

Which Breed Fits the Facilities?

For those working in barns that were built twenty or more years ago where stalls are smaller, Jerseys may be a better fit.   As well new dairy operators who are renting such facilities could find that Jerseys would operate better in those smaller stalls.  Bedding packs also are another way to put minimal effort and expense into rented facilities. Jersey’s work well on packs. If there is a drawback, it could be that it may take more stalls to produce the same volume of milk.  However, if the Jerseys are high volume for %F and %P, then the pounds of fat+protein produced per day may be the same whether it’s Holsteins or Jersey.

 Which Breed Eats the Most?

Scientific examples abound regarding “efficiency” because of the Jersey’s smaller size. Let’s briefly consider human size relating to efficiency. “Is the size two female more efficient than her size 18 cousin. What are they producing?  Food for a party?  Or are you measuring food consumed? Not relevant.  Well – what about groceries consumed? Or children produced?  Getting warmer.  But there are still too many variables to make a choice based on efficiency related to size alone. However, back to choosing the most efficient dairy breed to feed. It isn’t only about quantity of feed consumed per cow per day. The calculation should refer to the net dollars per day for the herd. When calculating returns minus feed costs, Jerseys can be competitive. (Read more: Feed Efficiency: The Money Saver)

Which Breed Has Better Genetics and Genomics?

Jerseys are not just for show oriented breeders.  Milk production focused herds are using Jerseys.

Genetically Jerseys differ from Holsteins in that SCSs are higher, and the Median Suspensory Ligament (cleft) may not be as defined. Their reproduction is much superior.  Jersey dropped bull calves are much less in demand. Dollar value is low.  Using sexed semen for the top of the herd and beef semen on the bottom half gives a revenue source because crossbred dropped calves are in demand. (Read more: SEXED SEMEN – At Your Service!) Jerseys have genomic indexes as well. Genomics may have been a little slower to be adopted than in Holsteins but just wait Jerseys will catch up. Or so the argument goes. (Read more: Dairy Cattle Genomics)

Which Breed will Save Time?

Jerseys are the Queens when it comes to reproduction in dairy cattle, boasting easier calving, better conception rates and fewer inseminations. All of these have an impact on less vet time required for checking or treating as well as staff time and effort daily and annually. Easier calving for Jersey’s impacts that there will be fewer calf losses at birth and most likely more calves getting off to a better start. Superior reproduction can allow for less time off in the dry cow pen or less time milking at lower levels during a lifetime. (Read more: Artificial Insemination – Is Doing It Yourself Really Saving You Money?)  Every manager knows that staff and cows need time off. Unnecessary time off on the cow’s part means less than optimum returns over a cow’s lifetime. Jersey heifers reach puberty at a younger age.  This means age at first calving can be earlier, thus saving on rearing costs.

Which breed sells more milk? More live sales?

In the US, Jerseys are about 10% of the population. There has been steady growth in the number of Jersey herds in the U.S., particularly among large dairy owners in the West. The way breeders market and which markets they send their milk to is essential in areas where cheese and butter sales (which are at the highest relative level in twenty years) can greatly influence which breed you choose to work with.  Owners are producing milk that their processors desire.  In fact, the processor is the breeders’ customer not the end consumers.  With eat local food movements the world over being emphasized, Jerseys may fit better than other breeds in some situations. The recent popularity of Jerseys has resulted in the fact that sales of breeding stock have been good as well,

It’s All About the Numbers. Are they In the Red or In the Black?

When you want to win the argument over which breed is the most profitable it all comes down to the actual data, you are analyzing.  The reason the debate goes on is because there isn’t a source for reliable data comparing Jerseys and Holsteins.  And so we come back to the initial article which triggered these questions which reported a comparison that exists through financial reports of Ganske, Mulder & Co. LLC, the largest dairy accounting firm in the U.S., They prepared reports summarizing all of its clients as a group and also does a separate summary for its Jersey clients. “It is perhaps the only such set of Jersey financial data that exists” reports the article that goes on to present statistics and the following summation. “Jerseys did make less milk per day than did all of the firm’s clients. But Jersey herds had much higher protein and fat tests, which resulted in significantly higher milk price per hundredweight. As a result, Jersey herds’ bottom line was much bigger – they made 45.7 percent more net profit per head.

OCONNORS PLANET LUCIAGenetics By Design13823
MAPEL WOOD LAST DANCEGenetics By Design33710
OCONNORS BOULDER LUNAGenetics By Design63537
OCONNORS LAST HOPEGenetics By Design23534
GEN-I-BEQ LEXOR PLAGESale of Stars453398
MAPEL WOOD M O M LUCYGenetics By Design123299
BOLDI V S G EPIC ASTERSale of Stars73240

So What Color of Dairy Breed Is the Money Maker?

Jersey herds produced 48 pounds of fat and protein where all herds produced 5.0 pounds of fat and protein. This is not significantly different. But on any given day, on any particular dairy operation, the numbers can be rallied to support the choice that is dearest to the heart of owner-operators.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In the end, your particular passion is what it all boils down to. When it comes to the choice of Black and White, Brown, or “green”, the only thing you can know for sure is that dairy love is NOT color blind. Whether your passion is driven by the color of the dairy breed or by the color of money … or both… the right answer is up to you?  End of argument.




Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.




Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend