After reading Keeping a Family Cow, I’ve been considering adding a cow or two to our homestead. So I was easily hooked when I learned about a beautiful heritage breed of milk cow – Dutch Belteds. At The Livestock Conservancy conference in November, mother-daughter duo Winifred and Martha Hoffman (BestYet A.I. Sires) gave an excellent presentation about this breed. Three generations of their family have been dedicated to helping to conserve Dutch Belteds since 1981. Dutch Belteds originated in the Netherlands in the 17th century and the breed was first imported into the United States in 1838.
Here are five reasons you might like to add Dutch Belted Cattle to your homestead:
- A rare and heritage breed – Their conservation status is critical so by raising Dutch Belteds you can help to ensure this breed will be around for years to come. Some of their traits include fertility, longevity, and strong milk production well into their teens. Thankfully, due to the dedication of breeders such as the Hoffmans, the breed’s numbers have quadrupled in the last 20 years from 114 in 1995 to 424 in 2016.
- Personality – The Hoffmans described Dutch Belteds as “go-getters”, curious, assertive, independent, sassy, and intelligent.
- Distinctive look – With their striking black (or sometimes red) coloring with a white belt around their barrel, Dutch Belteds are sure to stand out on any homestead.
- Moderate size – Dutch Belteds reach 900-1,500 pounds with bulls up to 2,000 pounds making them a moderately sized cow between Holsteins and Jerseys.
- Milk production and quality – On average, purebred Dutch Belted cows produce about 10,000 pounds of milk per lactation. With 3.5-5.5% butter fat, their milk makes excellent drinking milk. One family milk cow will work well for a homestead, though it would only provide milk for up to 10 months of the year. If you prefer a year-round milk supply, you would need two cows. You can choose to milk either once or twice a day, either by hand or with a machine. Twice a day milking will provide up to double the amount of milk (about 2-5 gallons/day on high quality grass only or 5-7 gallons/day if you are providing grain).
On the Dutch Belted Cattle Association in America (DBCAA) website, you can learn more about the breed, find a list of breeders across the U.S., and sign up to receive the group’s newsletter – the Dutch Belted Bulletin. In the August 2017 issue of the Dutch Belted Bulletin, there is an excellent article by Martha Hoffman about the basics of preparing for and purchasing a Dutch Belted milk cow. She even includes a sample budget describing startup and yearly costs of owning a cow. You can also join the Dutch Belted Dairy Cattle Facebook group.
Janie Hynson is a beginning homesteader in North Carolina. She works in public health and sustainable agriculture and is interested in how health can be improved through homesteading.
For more information on adding milkers to your homestead: