So cattle come in all shapes, sizes, and colors (fun fact: no two cows have exactly the same coat pattern), but they can basically be divided into dairy cattle and beef cattle. Beef cattle tend to be stockier and more muscular, and they only produce enough milk to feed their calves. Dairy cattle can sometimes look a little skinny or spindly, because their energy primarily goes to milk production rather than building muscle. They produce 7-9 gallons of milk per day (on average), compared to beef cattle, who only produce 1-2 gallons.
Technically, a “cow” is a female bovine that has had a calf, but “bovine” just feels pretentious, so most non-agrarians just call all cattle cows. A “heifer” is a female bovine that hasn’t given birth, a “bull” is an intact male bovine, and a “steer” is a castrated male bovine. Some other fun terms are “bullock” (usually an older steer, but sometimes a young bull — so a pretty useless term out of context!), “springer” (a cow or heifer that is about to calf), and “freemartin” (a female that is twin to a bull and usually becomes an infertile partial intersex bovine).
Here are five of the most popular breeds of beef cattle in America:
Here are five of the most popular breeds of dairy cattle in America: