Cow's at dusk
Cow's at dusk
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A Holstein cow
Holsteins (also known as Holstein-Friesian cattle or Friesian cattle) are a breed of cattle known today as the world's highest-production dairy animal. Originating in Europe, Holsteins were bred in what is now the Netherlands and more specifically in the two northern provinces of North Holland and Friesland. The animals were the regional cattle of the Batavii and Frisii, two tribes who settled in the coastal Rhine region around 2,000 years ago.
The Dutch breeders bred and oversaw the development of the breed with the goal of obtaining animals that could best use grass, the area's most abundant resource. Over the centuries, the result was a high-producing, black-and-white dairy cow. It is black and white due to artificial selection by the breeders.
With the growth of the New World, markets began to develop for milk in North America, and dairy breeders turned to the Netherlands for their livestock. After about 8,800 Holsteins had been imported, disease problems in Europe led to the cessation of imports to the United States.
In Europe, the breed is used for milk in the north, and meat in the south. Since 1945, European national development has led to cattle breeding and dairy products becoming increasingly regionalized. More than 80% of dairy production is to be found to the north of a line joining Bordeaux and Venice, where more than 60% of the total cattle numbers are found. This change led to the need for specialized animals for dairy (and beef) production. Until this time, milk and beef had been produced from dual-purpose animals. The breeds, national derivatives of the Dutch Friesian, had become very different animals from those developed by breeders in the United States, who used Holsteins only for dairy production.
Breeders imported specialized dairy Holsteins from the United States to cross with the European black and whites. For this reason, in modern usage, "Holstein" is used to describe North American stock and its use in Europe, particularly in the North. "Friesian" denotes animals of a traditional European ancestry, bred for both dairy and beef use. Crosses between the two are described by the term "Holstein-Friesian".