Our highly experienced livestock team regularly visit farms all over Ireland & Europe to source the best quality dairy, beef and dual purpose cattle. The guide below explains many of the breeds in greater detail.
If you require further help and advice deciding which breed of cattle to buy, please give us a call on 00353 44 9356200
Aberdeen Angus cattle (often know as Angus internationally) are commonly used in beef production. The breed was developed in the 1800s from cattle native to Aberdeenshire and Angus in Scotland.
Tenant farmer, Hugh Watson, is often referred to as one of the key founders of the Aberdeen Angus breed. By selecting the best black, polled animals, Watson produced Aberdeen Angus cattle of outstanding quality and character. Indeed, it is said that the vast majority of Aberdeen Angus cattle around today can have their pedigrees traced back to a bull and cow owned by Watson.
Early Aberdeen Angus pioneers such as Hugh Watson, William McCombie and Sir George Macpherson-Grant established this magnificent beef breed in Aberdeenshire, Angus, Speyside and the Laigh of Moray. Aberdeen Angus cattle later spread throughout Scotland and into England and Ireland. Today, the Black Angus is one of the most popular beef breeds in America.
Black or red in colour, Aberdeen Angus cattle are naturally polled. The breed has many benefits to a commercial beef farmer. This undemanding breed is adaptable, good-natured and resistant to harsh weather. They mature early, have a high carcass yield and beautifully marbled meat.
Females calve easily and have a strong maternal instinct. Aberdeen Angus cows can continue to bear calves for many years and it isn’t unusual for 13 year old animals to still be productive. (One of Hugh Watson’s cows is alleged to have produced 29 calves during her 35 year life!)
Aberdeen Angus cattle can thrive in all conditions with a minimum of maintenance. Little wonder that they are now a truly international breed. The Aberdeen Angus is popular in America, Argentina, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. They can also be found in Brazil, South Africa and all across Europe.
British Friesian cattle are a long established breed which originate from Friesland in the Netherlands. In the 1970s, Holsteins were used to improve milk production and the result today is that many Friesians are 25 to 75 percent Holstein. (Holstein cows come from Northern Germany.)
Friesian cattle are horned and are usually black and white. (Red and white varieties are only seen in Holland and not in any great number.)
The British Friesian is predominately a dairy breed and one which gives high yields over its lifetime. It is suited to the variable British and Irish climates and copes admirably with cold winters and the odd summer heatwave.
Friesian cows typically weigh around 580 kilos. Predominately a grazing animal it is able to sustain itself over many lactations. (Outstanding examples of the breed can have 12 to 15 lactations.) Protein percentages across a herd can be around 3.4%.
British Friesian cows have the ability to calve frequently in their lifetime. They have excellent conception rates; a higher number of calves per lifetime are born to Friesians than any other cattle of their kind. Calves typically weigh around 45 kilos.
They are also renowned for the quality of their milk, their versatility and longevity. Indeed, the average Friesian cow will produce around 26,000 litres of milk in her lifetime.
Although the Friesian is mainly a dairy breed, male animals are highly prized as they produce good quality, lean meat. Some Friesian beef cattle reach over 1300 kilos in finishing weight. British Friesian male calves have the ability to finish and grade well, whether as steers or in intensive systems.
With these qualities it is easy to understand why British Friesian cattle are so popular in the UK and in Ireland.
The Brown Swiss or American Brown Swiss is an American breed of dairy cattle. It derives from the traditional triple-purpose Braunvieh ("Swiss Brown") of the Alpine region of Europe, but has diverged substantially from it. It was selectively bred for dairy qualities only, and its draft and beef capabilities were lost. Milk yield was measured in 2013 at 10231 kg (22600 lb) per year; the milk has about 4% butterfat and 3.5% protein and is suitable for making cheese.
In the twentieth century the Brown Swiss became a world breed, with a global population estimated in 1990 at seven million head. It has been much used for cross-breeding and has influenced a number of modern breeds.
In English "Swiss Brown" refers to the original Braunvieh breed, as opposed to "Brown Swiss" for the American breed.
Fleckvieh cattle are now one of the most popular breeds.
Pedigree Fleckvieh cattle imported from Austria
Fleckvieh cattle originated in central Europe back in the 1800s when local stock were cross-bred with Simmental cattle from Switzerland. The aim was to produce a breed with excellent muscling and good milk production. Today, the dual purpose Fleckvieh is suitable for both meat and milk production and is firmly established on all continents.
These farms are predominately in Austria and Germany. Our focus is on high class heifers and cows which are then delivered directly to farms.
The Fleckvieh has the ability to reach outstanding milk and solids production levels. The average production for the Fleckvieh breed now stands at around 6850 litres with protein at 3.43% and butterfat at 4.13%. Fertility is also very good. The calving interval stands at 380 days, so they are very suitable as a block spring calving herd. Females calve easily. The cull cow will average 400 kgs dead weight.
Pedigree Fleckvieh cattle imported from Austria
The Fleckvieh is renowned for its excellent beef production and the meat is well marbled and tender. This is a hardy and adaptable breed able to thrive in different climates.
It is widely believed that the origins of Friesian cattle can be traced back to the 18th century. At this time, small black and white cattle were brought in to Friesland and the north of Holland and crossed with the native cattle. The Netherlands herdbook was established in 1873 and the Friesland herdbook in 1879.
Prior to the establishment of these herdbooks, red-pied animals were kept separately to black-pied cattle. The latter were preferred in America and today only a small number of red-pied cattle exist in Holland.
In the 1970s, Holstein cattle were imported from America to improve the milk production of the Friesian. The effects of this cross-breeding are keenly felt today. Many Friesian cattle are 25 – 75 percent Holstein.
The Friesian is able to graze on low lying and upland grassland. Selective breeding over the last century has resulted in an animal well able to sustain itself over many lactations. Milk protein levels are around 3.4%.
Unsurprisingly, the Friesian is similar in size to the Holstein. Friesian cows typically weigh around 580 kilos. They have excellent conception rates and the ability to calve frequently in their lifetime. Indeed, a higher number of calves per lifetime are born to Friesians than any other cattle of their kind.
Holstein cattle are incredibly popular. Indeed, the Holstein breed is by far the number one breed in the world for milk production.
Holstein cow milk production
Milk yields of up to and over 14,000 litres in a year (in a duster that milks the cows 4 times per day) have been recorded. In one large farming system – the Almarai farms in Saudi Arabia – the 66,000 cows produce over 14,000 litres on average, per year.
Back in Europe the average is around 7,500 litres. This can vary from a 6,000 litre average on a low cost, spring calving, grass based, farming system on twice a day milking to 12,000 litres on a three times a day milking, highly intensive system.
The Holstein originated in Europe. The breed developed from black animals and white animals used by the Batavians and the Friesians (ancient Germanic tribes who lived along the Dutch Rhine Delta) around 2000 years ago. A breeding program focused on producing animals which would make the very best use of the area’s most abundant resource – grass. The end result is the highly efficient, milk-producing, black and white dairy cow we know today.
Cows typically weigh around 680 kilos. A healthy calf weighs around 40 kilos. Calf growth is rapid and they are easy to care for. Indeed, Holsteins are good-natured and easy to handle.
The Holstein also contributes to the worldwide meat supply. They are often cross-bred with beef breeds to produce a better quality meat. Little wonder then that Holstein cattle can now be found in most countries around the world.
David Clarke Livestock source top quality Holsteins from here in Ireland and throughout Europe. Our strong relationship with the IHFA (Irish Holstein Friesian Association) helps us to source top quality Holstein cattle in Ireland that will suit any system.
Jersey cattle have existed in the UK and Ireland since the 1700s. While Jerseys are one of the oldest dairy breeds, how cattle were first brought to the island of Jersey is unclear.
Jersey cows for sale across the globe
From the mid 1800s to the start of World War I, Jersey cattle were exported in their thousands to America. During the late 1800s the breed was also imported by numerous other countries. These countries included Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand and South Africa.
Today, Jersey cattle remain incredibly popular. They are one of the largest breeds of dairy cattle in the world. Interestingly, there are only a few thousand on Jersey itself, but then the island is relatively small. Other breeds of cattle are not permitted on Jersey.
The other popular breed of cattle from the Channel Islands is the Guernsey. Find out more about Guernsey cows.
Jersey cattle are usually light brown in colour. They can range from grey to a muted black. Some have white patches, but a true Jersey will have a black nose bordered by a white muzzle.
The Jersey has always been renowned for its milk production. Their milk has more butterfat and protein than milk from the Holstein. Milk from a Jersey cow is ideal for making cheese.
Jerseys are the smallest dairy breed and one of the most efficient at converting feed to milk. They are able to adapt to a wide range of conditions. Herds of Jersey cattle can now be found all across Europe, South America, Australia, Zimbabwe and Japan.
Jersey cow characteristics.
Jersey cows typically weigh around 400 – 450 kilos. Jerseys perform well under a range of systems. They are known for their high feed conversion efficiency. Jersey cows often produce in excess of 13 times their bodyweight in milk in each lactation.
The Jersey cow is docile and easy to manage. They calve easily have great fertility and a short calving interval. They are renowned for the quality of their milk which contains more protein, calcium and butterfat than ‘average’ milk.
Jersey bulls have a very different temperament. While small compared to other dairy breeds, the Jersey bull is extremely muscular and far from docile. It also has a very poor beefing ability.
As the name suggests, Montbéliarde cattle originate from the Montbéliarde region of France. To thrive in this mountainous region Montbéliarde cattle need to be hardy. They cope admirably in extreme temperatures at both ends of the scale.
Officially registered as a pure breed in the late 1800s, the Montbéliarde is now one of the most popular breeds in France. Montbéliarde cows are renowned for the good quality milk that they produce. Indeed, the milk’s high protein content has been used in the production of cheese for centuries. Today, their milk is often processed into Emmental and Gruyère cheese.
This red and white pied breed is similar in appearance to the red and white Holstein. Montbéliarde cows typically weigh around 685 kilos, mature bulls 1100-1200 kilos. This hardy breed adapts well to all sorts of rearing systems. (In hot regions it can ingest large quantities of rough forage.)
Montbéliarde cattle are rated highly for their breeding qualities and resistance to mastitis. Fertility rates are high – artificial insemination success rates are good. They also benefit from high calve survival rates.
The Montbéliarde also has strong beefing ability. Calves and young bulls benefit from rapid growth rates and good conformation. Cows also produce good quality carcasses with no excess fat.
With these qualities it is easy to understand why the Montbéliard has become so popular in France and why this adaptable breed is exported all over the world. This breed can now be found in Africa, South America, the Middle East and all across Europe.
Norwegian Red cattle are an amalgamation of many different breeds. In addition to several varieties of Norwegian cattle, (such as the Norwegian Red and White, the Red Polled Ostland and the Red Trondheim) Swedish Red and Whites, Friesians and Holsteins are also said to have contributed to the gene pool. Cows are selected based on milking potential and fertility, bulls on growth rate.
The Norwegian Red has been developed as a superior strain of dual purpose cattle. This isn’t meant to sound derogatory in any way, but everything about them is average (traits that they are specifically bred for). They are of a medium size and give an average yield. Milk fat is average and so is the meat.
That being said, research has been published following the increased use of Norwegian Red genetics in several grass-based herds here in Ireland. The results are certainly positive with excellent fertility and milk solids production reported. In the trials, Norwegian Red cows produced higher percentages of fat and protein in their milk compared to that of Holstein–Friesians.
The breed numbers under 300,000 in Norway and is currently not heavily exported. However, David Clarke Livestock is able to source and supply Norwegian Red cattle to farms across Europe.
Cows typically weigh 495 – 600 kg, bulls around 900 kg. Milk production is approximately 6,200 litres a year (a European Holstein will produce around 7,500 litres).
Gestation lengths are shorter in the Norwegian Red than in many other breeds and there are fewer still births. Mastitis resistance is good and fertility rates are high. Polled or horned cattle are available.
Salers cattle originate from the Massif Central in the Auvergne region of France. They are the most genetically pure of all European breeds and one of the oldest breeds in the world. Prehistoric cave paintings, discovered near the French medieval town of Salers, depict a very similar type of animal to the breed we know today.
Salers cattle for sale
In calf Salers heifers
Salers cattle cheese
Numerically, Salers are the largest of the ‘hardy breeds’ in France. Only around 10% of these are milked. Their high protein milk is used in the production of good quality cheeses such as Cantal, St. Nectaire and Salers. The vast majority of Salers cattle are used for beef production.
Salers cattle are typically horned and a dark red colour. (A growing number are polled and black.) As the breed originated in difficult conditions in France, it can thrive in challenging environments across the world. The coat becomes thick and curly in winter thereby providing protection from the elements.
Salers cattle weight & temperament
Females weigh between 700 – 750 kg and are renowned for their exceptional calving ease. They also display outstanding fertility, milking ability and longevity. Conscientious and vigilant, females often care for other calves in the group. Calves are born with moderate birth weights. Typical weights are around 36kg for heifers and 38kg for bulls.
A mature bull weighs 1000 – 1200 kg and has the ability to cover a large number of females.
In short, Salers are long living, hardy animals. They are excellent foragers, provide easy calving and are ideally suited for crossbreeding programmes.
Little wonder that the breed can now be found in Africa, North America, Oceania and all across Europe.