HISTORY

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Holstein Heifers

Holsteins 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. The animals were the regional cattle of tribes who settled in the coastal Rhine region around 2,000 years ago. Dutch breeders oversaw the development of the breed with the goal of obtaining animals that could best use grass, the area’s most abundant resource. The result was a high-producing, black-and-white dairy cow. It is black and white due to artificial selection by the breeders.

COLONIAL COWS

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The New Netherlands

Black and white cattle were introduced into the US from 1621 to 1664. The eastern part of New York was the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, where many Dutch farmers settled along the Hudson and Mohawk River valleys. They probably brought cattle with them from their native land and crossed them with cattle purchased in the colony. For many years afterwards, the cattle here were called Dutch cattle and were renowned for their milking qualities. As the New World grew, markets began to develop for milk in North America, and dairy breeders turned to the Netherlands for their livestock.

NEW MARKETS

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Ameican Dairy Cattle

In 1795, The first recorded imports, consisting of six cows and two bulls, arrived in New York. A settler described them thus, “the cows were of the size of oxen, their colors clear black and white in large patches; very handsome”. After about 8,800 Holsteins had been imported, a cattle disease broke out in Europe and importation ceased. In the late 19th century, there was enough interest among breeders to form associations to record pedigrees and maintain herd books. These associations merged in 1885, to found the Holstein-Friesian Association of America. In 1994, the name was changed to Holstein Association USA, Inc.