Are Holstein Cows Good Mothers?

The Holstein cow breed is one of the most famous and fastest growing breeds of milk cows that many know. It is an ancient breed with a long history, as Holstein cows originated about 2,000 years ago in the Netherlands.

It is a breed that resulted mainly from the crossing of two breeds of cattle, namely the black animals from the Batavians and the white animals from the Frisians. As a result, it’s famous for its white and black colors.

The breed of cows was known as Holstein-Friesians, but it has recently become known as Holstein, especially in the United States. It is still called Frisians in the UK. In 1852 Holstein cows were first brought to the United States.

What is remarkable about Holstein cows is their huge milk productivity. The average Holstein cow produces about 25,000 pounds each year. It seamlessly adapts to most management and usage systems.

While these are some of the important features and characteristics of Holstein cows, one question that many farmers are interested in is are Holstein cows do well as mothers? During my research, I found that the information about Holstein cows motherhood abilities is pretty not there which makes it difficult for farmers to find their answer.

In this article, we’re looking deeply at Holstein Cows relation with their calves and whether they are good mother or not. We’re also addressing the problem of separation and how the milk production are affecting its life cycle and its ability to raise its calves. Let’s dig deeper!

Are Holstein Cows Good Mothers?

Mother cow and his son

We can’t say for sure that Holstein cows are often good mothers. Although there are no confirmed studies on this, most milking cows are not good mothers.

Results have been shown about motherhood in milking cows by leaving young calves with cows for a more extended period of time. The cows were raising their calves and nurturing and caring for them really well about 30% of the time the mothers.

But anyway, Holstein cows take care of their calves and nurse them reasonably and not too badly. but unfortunately, it doesn’t work out as tenderly as we might imagine.

It’s also worth noting that one of the common problems in Holsteins that leads to poor motherhood is the separation. In most Holstein farms, calves are severely separated in the first hours of birth! The calf is separated in the first 24 hours to leave the cow to groan and cry.

Holstein cows are milking machines, they give huge amounts of milk. This makes farm owners separate young calves to benefit from the milk produced by Holstein cows.

Separating Cows And Calves

Whatever the gender of the new calf, they do not stay with the mother for more than two days, at which time they drink colostrum for the first time. Then they are removed from their mothers to live in the social coral.

The calves are fed raw milk during the first three months in the best conditions. calves are raised by workers to be slaughtered at an early age or continue to be cared for to enter the line of mating and production. Males are castrated, released into the herd, and live on pastures until maturity, after which they are sold and slaughtered as beef.

Why Are Calves Separated From The Cows?

The dairy industry is based on the primary goal of profit, so calves are separated until they get the highest productivity. Cows don’t automatically produce milk, as some in the dairy industry claim and promote.

Cows have to become pregnant and mothers have to be able to produce milk to nurse their babies, just like mothers. Therefore, in order to produce large quantities of milk, some farmers bred the heifers at a very young age of 13 months.

Although many believe that heifers can be bred at this age, they are still very young, which affects them later. The cycle of pregnancy and childbirth is repeated every year, so the cow has to have a new calf and enter a new milking cycle every year. [1]

The Effect Of Milk Production On The Life Cycle And Motherhood Condition Of Holstein Cows

There was a misconception that cows, especially dairy cows, including Holstein cows, only live until the age of 4 or 5 years. cows can live until at least 10 to 13 years old in good health! This is what happens. it is not among the natural characteristics of cows. Although it actually happens now it is not the general rule.

Forcing cows to produce more milk at an early age, frequently and almost without interruption, leads to the cows becoming very weak and worn out, which makes them die at this early age.

Therefore, dairy cows do not remain on the farm until the second or third lactation cycle because of the poor health they become as a result of the heavy consumption of their health.

It is exposed to great pressure during pregnancy, childbirth, and milking with milking machines that are installed on her delicate skin for a large part of her life,

Holstein cows (as is the case with other dairy cows) leave the herd at the age of 4 or 5 years because they suffer from many problems such as:

1. Decreased Milk Production

With time, milk production decreases. And the return from it becomes not enough to cover the cost of feeding it. It is known that Holstein cows eat large quantities of fodder. which makes farmers continue to bear the costs of these large quantities of fodder, the profit that accrues to them from selling milk.

2. Decreased Fertility 

Farmers abandon their cows when they are less able to reproduce in time to continue producing milk.

3. Lameness Problems

Foot problems begin to appear with the third or fourth cycle of milking, such as poor foot structure, and chronic foot rot.

4. Mastitis

As a result of the huge production of milk, the nipples of the Holstein cows in particular, and other milking cows in general, are exposed to great pressure as a result of the repeated milking process with milking tools, and they are exposed to problems in the udder, including chronic mastitis.


Do Holstein cows produce milk without being pregnant?

Cows, like humans, produce milk only as a result of pregnancy and childbirth to feed their young. Dairy cows are artificially fattened to give birth to one calf per year to continue producing milk as long as possible.

Are Holstein cows smart?

No, they are not as smart as other breeds, Holstein cows are less intelligent than other dairy cows.

Are calves taken from their mothers?

Yes, calves are separated from their mothers one or two days after birth at best, so that the mother’s milk is fully utilized. Calves are kept in groups and fed from cows’ milk by bottles. Calves should be given cow’s milk for the first 12 weeks so they can get their nutritional needs and stay healthy.

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Doaa Salah
The shy one (too shy to put her photo) and the only girl in our team! Doaa is a veterinarian who is passionate about writing content. She knows a lot about animals and birds, as she has been studying them for many years now. Her goal? She is researching and learning to convey to you all the knowledge she have and what's new about farming.