The Holstein (also known as Holstein-Friesians) is a breed known today as the world’s highest-production dairy animals. Originating in Europe, Friesians were bred in what is now the Netherlands an more specifically in the two northern provinces of North Holland and Friesland, and northern Germany, more specifically what is now Schleswig-Holstein.
The Dutch breeders bred and oversaw the development of the breed with the goal of obtaining animals that could best use grass, the area’s most abundant resource. Over the centuries the result was a high-producing, black-and-white dairy cow.
With the growth of the New World markets began to develop for milk in North America, and dairy breeders turned to the Netherlands for their livestock. Afterabout 8,800 Friesians (black pied Germans) had been imported, disease problems inEurope led to the cessation of imports to the United States.
In Europe, the breed was used for milk in the north, and meat in the south. Since 1945, European national development has led to cattle breeding and dairy products becoming increasingly regionalized. More than 80% of dairy production is to be found to the north of a line joining Bordeaux and Venice, where more than 60% of the total cattle numbers are found. This change led to the need for specialized animals for dairy (and beef) production. Until this time, milk and beef had been produced from dual-purpose animals. The breeds, national derivatives of the Dutch Friesian, had become very different animals from those developed by breeders in the United States, who used Holsteins only for dairy production.