There are a variety of cow breeds used for dairy farming in New Zealand today. Finding the cow breed that best suits your business may depend on many different factors, such as the type of milk they produce, the fat and protein content of their milk, the longevity and hardiness of the cows, milk yields, feed quantity, farm size, and resources available to you.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular breed types for dairy farming in New Zealand and across the globe currently.

Jersey Cows

Jersey cows comprise around 10% of all dairy cows in New Zealand today. Generally, Jersey heifers are small in size, weighing between 400 and 450 kilograms with light brown colourings, although this can vary from a light grey to shades of black, while occasionally donning white patches. Though usually more nervous in disposition than other dairy cows, a Jersey cow is docile and particularly easy to manage. The tail of Jersey cattle is black and, as dairy breeds go, their udder is relatively big. Both Jersey bulls and cows usually have horns that are thin and curved.

What are Jersey Cows Good For?

Jersey cattle are raised primarily as dairy cows for milk production and are one of the world’s most popular dairy breeds. They have a feed conversion rate of 18% which is higher compared to many other dairy cow breeds. This means they don’t require as much feed intake for the same amount of milk output. A Jersey cow can produce far in excess of 13 times their body weight in milk per lactation, producing between 3500-4500 kilograms of milk per year. This, along with their smaller size, makes this breed much more sustainable than others with a lower environmental footprint.

Jersey cattle are popular for dairy farming in many countries across the globe. In addition to being the most sustainable cattle breed, they are excellent grazers and perform well in intensive grazing programs. Other characteristics include good health traits, longevity, and adaptability to extreme climatic and geographical conditions as they are much more tolerant of heat than the larger breeds.

The Jersey bulls are increasingly in high demand for their semen having risen in sales from 15% to 20% in the last 2 years. Due to the size of the cow, they are commonly bred across all breeds of cattle to reduce the difficulty large calves can cause heifers during pregnancy and birth. Jersey bulls, however, are the most masculine, are highly muscular and have the least docile temperament of all the common breeds. Therefore, it may not be wise to trust these bulls past 18 months of age. A fully grown Jersey bull can weigh between 540 and 820 kilograms.

Why is Jersey Cow Milk So Special?

Jersey cows are excellent grazers and this shows in their milk. Of all the dairy breeds, Jersey milk is the richest, for which farmers are paid a premium. Although small in size, this breed produces milk with a higher fat content of 4.84%, which is 25% more than average milk, and higher protein content of 3.95%, which is 18% more than most dairy cattle; this makes their milk particularly creamy and more indulgent than most other cow’s milk. Though this might seem less attractive if you’re watching your health, recent studies have shined a more favourable light on the health benefits of high-fat milk. Research has shown that it actually prevents weight gain rather than promoting it. The demand and interest for jersey milk is likely to remain strong for years to come.

How to Optimise Jersey Cows Milk Production

Jersey cows have one of the highest rates of milk production across all dairy cattle breeds, however, this can be increased further with the use of SmartShelters. If you don’t already have the option of a high quality barn to house your livestock we recommend investing in our leading and innovative composting barns.

Milk production in dairy cattle typically increases up to 20% a year with the use of our shelters. That’s not all, not only do they increase milk production, they also increase herd health, protect your pastures, protect your surrounding environment through the management of effluent and nitrogen leaching, control feed levels and prevent lameness.


The Jersey breed originated on the Island of Jersey, a small British isle in the English Channel, off the coast of France. They are one of the oldest breeds of dairy cattle, having been purebred for the better part of 6 centuries.

Jersey cattle were first introduced to New Zealand in 1862. The breed increased in popularity from the Taranaki province and slowly spread across the country to become the second most bred dairy cattle, now comprising just shy of 10% of the country’s dairy cows.

Read Cow Breeds in NZ for Dairy Farming Part 2