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The Perfect Holstein Cow

Does such a thing even exist?  Or is the perfect cow like the Unicorn that only exists in myth and mystery?  For years there has been ongoing debate about what the perfect Holstein cow would look like and what it would take to achieve such an animal.  Here at the Bullvine we wanted to take it from our imagination into reality.  We decided to tackle what the perfect Holstein cow would look like.

In discussions with breeders and while developing our recent article with Bonnie Mohr (Read –  Bonnie Mohr – Science and Art Creates a Holstein Love Story), we started  thinking about which cows in history have had the best Mammary System, Feet & Legs, Rump and Dairy Strength.  In the same way that breed associations have used pictures of some of the greatest cows in history to develop their true type models, so did we.  Moreover, what would that cow look like if you put all the best parts into a single image?

As is typical with most things around here, we decided to put thought into action and see what would happen.  We first went to Facebook to get other opinions on what was the best of all time.  However, finding a level of consensus was almost impossible. Everyone had ideas on what the perfect cow would look like.  With so much variety of opinions, we then turned to the highest classifying cows of all time, those that have scored EX-97, the closest thing to living perfection.  The following is what we can up with for the Bullvine Holstein Mature Model Cow.

The Bullvine Holstein Mature Model Cow

The Bullvine Holstein Mature Model Cow

Not satisfied to stop there.  We again got to thinking.  If that is what she looks like at maturity, what does she look like as a two year old?  So we went to some of the VG-89-2YR olds for inspiration and developed the following image of our Bullvine Holstein Model 2yr:

The Bullvine Holstein Model 2yr

The Bullvine Holstein Model 2yr

This sparked a lot of debate among the Bullvine team.  We all admired the appearance of these cows but wondered how practical they would be in the real world.  We asked ourselves,”How is the perfect conformation cow different from the perfect breeding cow?”

If you look at many of the top total performance cows in the breed and compare them to the top show cows you notice some significant differences.  First off,   the performance or breeding cows tend to be a little thicker throughout and have a rounder turn to them as well a little deeper udder to accommodate for the extra production.  These are some   of the key things the committees that have developed the true type models in the past have tried to represent.  So, similar to the way we developed the Bullvine Model  Mature Cow as well as the Bullvine Model  2 yr. old, we started looking at the parts of some of the greatest total performance cows and developed the following image of the Bullvine Total Performance 2 Yr Old Cow.

The Bullvine Total Performance 2 Yr Old Cow

The Bullvine Total Performance 2 Yr Old Cow

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Everyone has a different definition of what the perfect cow would look like.  What we have found is that, depending on what your breeding goals are, you have a different image in mind.  The perfect show cow would look different from the perfect classification cow (Less slope from hooks to pins and a little straighter in the feet and legs) and she would also look a little different from the perfect total performance cow (less overall condition, shallower udder and more angular turn to her rib).  While we are sure there will be great discussion about what  the perfect cow actually looks like, what we urge  everyone to think about is, what does your perfect  cow look like and what are you doing to achieve her  in your breeding program.?  As is true with anything, when you have a clear image of what you’re aiming for, it makes it that much easier to achieve.



  1. Why do we always wrap ourselves up in “what the perfect cow should look like”, when we could be asking ourselves, who are the cows that live to be 8-10 years, produce a live calf every year, and milk 200,000 pounds while doing it? The cows that accomplish these achievements have the necessary type characteristics to be productive, profitable cows, and THEY will tell us what they need to look like!

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