How Much Does a Cow Weigh? | Information and Facts

It’s no doubt that everyone marvels at the size of cows when they’re seen grazing on pastures or banding together in herds, as they appear to have large muscle mass compared to most farm animals. 

A typical cow weighs 1,300 pounds. Heifers, or baby cows, weigh 65 to 90 pounds at birth. Beef cows weigh an average of 1,200 pounds while dairy cows are approximately 1,500 pounds. However, cow weight varies depending on the breed of the dairy or beef cow.

This article will provide you with information you need to know about how much cows weigh depending on type, breed, and age, how to raise cows for personal consumption or commercial use, and the best cow breeds for homesteading. 

Can You Keep a Cow in Your Backyard?

You can keep a cow in your backyard as long as you properly feed and manage it. You can even raise it for dairy, meat production, or both. In fact, many countries rely on household cattle for their milk and meat supply. 

In the United States, backyard livestock owners in urban and peri-urban areas have greatly increased over the last decade according to this study.

Backyard cows are usually raised in sheds or small enclosures. Under the right living conditions, a dairy cow can make 6 to 12 gallons of milk a day while an 880-pound cow carcass can produce 410 to 585 pounds of meat. 

Their produce is either used for personal consumption, which is then considered a form of subsistence-oriented backyard farming, or sold to markets and commercial buyers, a form of market-oriented backyard farming. 

How Much Space Do You Need for 1 Cow?

The backyard shed or barn space for a single cow should be about 20 to 30 square feet if the cow has access to foraging grounds. Otherwise, they would need 35 to 50 square feet for a beef-producing cow and up to 100 square feet for a dairy cow. 

For commercial farms and pastures, each cow should have a minimum of 1.8 acres of space with enough forage grounds for them to cover. 

At What Age Do You Butcher a Cow?

The slaughter age of cows is around 12 to 36 months of age, but it depends on the quality grade butchers and slaughterhouses are going for. 

Below is a chart showing the different quality grades for slaughtering cows, their age requirement, and qualifications:

Quality GradeAge RequirementQualifications
Choice30 to 42 months Moderately thick fat covers the rump, back, ribs, loin, and crops while the brisket, cod, and flanks are full and have firm muscles. 
SelectUp to 30 months Thin fat covers the loin and back. Brisket, cod, flanks, and twist are slightly full and have slightly firm muscles.
Standard30 to 42 monthsVery thin fat covering the loin, back, and ribs. 
CommercialOver 42 monthsSlightly thick (for cows aged a little over 42 months) to moderately thick fat (for very mature cows) covering the rump, back, ribs, and loin. Muscling is moderately thick. 
UtilityUnder 30 monthsVery thin fat covering the rump, loin, and back. The crops, cod, brisket, and flanks are slightly thin with slight fullness. 
*Note: Cows are ineligible for the prime, cutter, and canner quality grades.

How Long Do You Raise a Cow Before Slaughter?

Grass-fed cows are ready for slaughter after growing for 26 to 30 months, while grain-fed cows have 14 to 18 months before slaughter.

How Much Does the Average Cow Weigh?

According to animal specialists, the latest estimates in 2016 stated that the average cow weighs 1,300 pounds.

The average weight of cows has increased since 1950 due to changes in the environment, feed resources, and management systems, which include a cow’s feed intake and body maintenance.

Average cow weight was 1,000 pounds in 1950, 1,047 pounds in 1975, and 1,369 pounds in 2005. During the early 1990s through 2004, there was a rapid increase in cow weight which is linked to changes in body composition and not frame size. 

Genetic trends analysis shows that muscularity, carcass weights, and back fat have increased over time which, in turn, also increases cow weight. 

How Much Does a Baby Cow Weigh?

Heifer weight at birth depends on the breed, but in general, baby cows weigh about 65 to 90 pounds. It takes about 2 years for baby cows to reach their full mature weight. However, they reach their desired breeding age at around 13 to 15 months. 

Here’s a chart showing the different cow breeds and their body weight ranges:

Age (months)HolsteinJerseyBrown SwissGuernseyAyrshireMilking Shorthorn
182 to 143 93 to 108134 to 163122 to 143131 to 154128 to 160
2113 to 238122 to 146187 to 223166 to 193177 to 205175 to 210
3149 to 284155 to 177240 to 283203 to 233223 to 256223 to 262
4189 to 339183 to 217293 to 343255 to 299269 to 307272 to 315
5218 to 411233 to 278345 to 403299 to 354315 to 357320 to 370
10422 to 776391 to 483597 to 694511 to 588538 to 602564 to 653
12504 to 843471 to 548693 to 805576 to 674624 to 697658 to 765
13504 to 913500 to 571739 to 859 643 to 756666 to 743705 to 820
15582 to 931565 to 640829 to 963740 to 866748 to 834794 to 926

How Much Does a Full-Grown Cow Weigh?

Full-grown or mature cows that are grown in continuous breeding systems weigh 1,100 to 1,300 pounds. Their carcasses will then produce about 700 to 850 pounds of meat, while milk outputs are expected to be 1 to 3 gallons a day for beef cows and 6 to 8 gallons for dairy cows.

How Much Does a Beef Cow Weigh?

Beef cows typically weigh an average of about 1,200 pounds, but it varies per beef cow breed.  

Here are the different beef cow breeds and their mature weight ranges:

Beef Cow BreedMature Weight (in pounds)
Angus1,000 to 1,300
Hereford1,200 to 1,800
Brahman1,000 to 1,400
Beef Shorthorn1,450 to 1,800
Simmental1,500 to 2,000
Charolais1,250 to 1,600
Red Poll1,200 to 1,650
Limousin1,400 to 1,900
South Devon1,000 to 1,300 
Gelbvieh1,600 to 1,800
Chianina1,700 to 2,200

How Much Does a Cow Elk Weigh?

A fully mature elk cow weighs between 500 to 600 pounds, with a height of 4.5 feet at the shoulder. It is important to know that, like cattle, female elks are referred to as cows, while male elks are called bulls.

How Much Does a Dairy Cow Weigh?

The average weight for mature dairy cows is approximately 1,500 pounds, but it varies slightly per cow breed. 

Here are the different dairy cow breeds and their mature weight ranges:

Dairy Cow BreedMature Weight (in pounds)
Holstein1,300 to 1,500
Jersey800 to 1,200
Brown Swiss1,300 to 1,400
Guernsey1,200 to 1,300
Ayrshire1,200 to 1,400
Milking Shorthorn1,250 to 1,400

How Much Does a Miniature Cow Weigh?

Depending on the breed, the average weight range for miniature cows is 450 to 850 pounds, which is about one-third to half the size of a standard-sized cow. 

The table below shows the weight ranges of different miniature cow breeds:

Miniature Cow BreedMature Weight (in pounds)
Lowline Angus700 to 1,100
Hereford650 to 1,000
Jersey500 to 800
Zebu300 to 500
Texas Longhorn350 to 800
Dexter660 to 780
Belted Galloway500 to 700
Highland400 to 600

How Much Does Half a Cow Weigh?

Since the average cow weighs 1,300 pounds, half a cow would weigh 650 pounds. Half a beef cow would weigh an average of 600 pounds, while half a dairy cow is 750 pounds. 

What Else Do I Need to Know About Raising Cows?

Since cows can either be raised for milk and meat production, for personal or commercial uses, as well as simply for selling their calves and heifers, know which one you’re going for before investing in cows since raising cows will depend on your purpose.

Milk production is more costly compared to beef production. Regardless of what you choose, make sure you conduct market research to know your potential buyers and how well your produce will sell in the market. 

However, if you’re raising them for your benefit, simply weigh the costs and benefits of raising cows.

Which Breeds of Cows Are Good for Homesteading?

Mini Cows

Mini Cows

Miniature cows are more manageable compared to standard-sized cows because of their size. They’re perfect for backyards with not a lot of space as they only require half an acre for each cow. They’re also the most inexpensive choice as their diets are also halved drastically. 

However, mini cows still require training to become tame. They can also be prone to having bad temperaments, depending on how you raise them. 

Guernsey Cows

Guernsey Cows

Guernsey cows are highly adaptable and can live in varying climates, under different management strategies, and can thrive in both confined spaces and pastures. Their milk is also ideal for cheese processing, which gives you a dual purpose when homesteading.

Moreover, they have no documented genetic disorders that are deemed undesirable and have overall mild temperaments.

Angus Cows

Angus Cows

Angus cows are popular and renowned cows for their muscular bodies that are perfect for meat production. Crossbreeding also allowed them to improve their milking capabilities. 

They’re the ideal breed for homesteading since they provide both beef and milk. However, they require a lot of space as they naturally live in pastures. It also takes a while for them to get used to human presence, but they’re generally very docile.

Simmental Cows

Simmental Cows

Simmental cows are also adaptable as they have been grown in both small, rural areas to extensive farming operations. They’re also used for their breeding capabilities as they produce high beef yields. Crossbreeding has also allowed them to improve their milk quality.

They’re also characterized by their docile temperament and ideal mothering traits. Simmental cows are, overall, a good choice.

Jersey Cows

Jersey Cows

Jersey cows are another adaptable breed as they can survive under any farm management system, whether they’re in small areas or pastures. They’re also known for having great quality milk which contains more calcium and protein content compared to other breeds.

Raising them under stressful conditions will affect their growth and development, so they must be raised with extra care. 

Hereford Cows

Hereford Cows

Herefords are characterized by their fast growth rates, longevity, docile temperament, and great beef quality. They can thrive in both yard or pasture feeding and are relatively the easiest to raise as they have the lowest labor costs.

If you’re in a bind, Hereford cows are the ideal cows for you and your homesteading plans.

In conclusion, cows weigh an average of 1,300 pounds, while heifers weigh 65 to 90 pounds at birth, beef cows are 1,200 pounds, and dairy cows are 1,500 pounds. 

List of Sources

Miniature Cattle: For Real, for Pets, for Production

Monitoring Dairy Heifer Growth

Small-Scale and Backyard Livestock Owners Needs Assessment in the Western United States

Beef Cattle Browsing – March 2016

Implications of Cow Size Change

Leave a Comment