An average cow weighs between 800lbs and 1400lbs (approximately 360kg – 635kg), although cow weight varies depending on the breed and age of the cow.
The largest cattle breeds can weigh up to 3500lbs (1600kg). Males tend to weigh more than females, and beef cows tend to weigh more than dairy cows.
In this article, we’re going to break down average cow weights across various breeds of cattle, learn how much cows weigh at different ages, and look at some things that influence the weight of cattle.
How Heavy are Cows?
According to the USDA, the average weight of all adult cattle at the point of slaughter was 1371lbs (621 kg).
This figure is a good starting point, but it’s not the whole picture. Cattle are usually slaughtered when their weight is as high as possible to maximize profits, so this figure is not a true reflection of the average weight of all living cows
To find the average weight of all cows, we’ll look at the average weight of the most common breeds and work out a rough average weight for all cows based on the popularity of each breed.
Distribution of Beef/Dairy Cattle in the USA
In the United States, the total cattle inventory for 2021 was 93.6 million head of cattle. According to the US Dept of Agriculture, around 40.6 million of the total cattle in the United States are adults, with the remainder being made up of calves.
Of the 40.6 million adult cattle in the United States, there are 31.2 million beef cattle and 9.4 million dairy cattle. This means that around 77% of adult cattle are beef cattle and 23% are dairy cattle.
Cattle Inventory (2021) Table
|Number (Head of Cattle)||Percentage of Adult Cattle|
|Total Adult Cattle||40,600,000||100%|
How Much Does an Average Dairy Cow Weigh?
For the average weight of a dairy cow, we will look at the weight of the Friesian-Holstein breed, since this particular breed makes up over 94% of all dairy cattle in the United States.
According to Pennsylvania State University, the median weight of an adult Friesian-Holstein dairy cow is 1,200lbs at 24 months.
Dairy cattle usually weigh less than beef cattle, since dairy cows devote a large part of their energy to producing milk, and their lean, efficient bodies mean they don’t have to waste energy on maintaining large muscles.
How Much Does an Average Beef Cow Weigh?
According to data from the USDA’s Germplasm Evaluation Report which is conducted annually, the average weight of adult beef cattle across all breeds is 1,390lbs.
Beef cattle are usually larger than dairy cattle because they have been selectively bred for size and muscle, whereas dairy cattle have been selected for milk production and as a result have thinner, weaker bodies.
Read More: Do Cows Like Being Milked?
According to the data, an average adult beef cow is around 190lbs (86kg) heavier than an average adult dairy cow.
Average Weight of Cows
Using the average weight of dairy cows (1200lbs) and beef cows (1390lbs), and the distribution of dairy to beef cattle provided by the USDA, we can work out the average weight of all adult cows.
The average weight of all adult living cattle in the United States is 1,345lbs or 610kg. This is made up of 76.8% beef cattle, which weigh 1390lbs on average, and 23.2% dairy cattle, which weigh 1,200lbs on average. This figure is less than the average slaughter weight of cattle, which is 1371lbs (621kg).
What Contributes to Cow Weight?
Cow weight is influenced by several factors, including the breed of cattle, their diet, whether they are male or female (males tend to be larger), and how old they are.
Let’s take a look at a few of these and see how they influence a cow’s weight:
Cow weight is strongly influenced by their breed, with some miniature breeds weighing as little as 600lbs, compared to some breeds specifically bred for draft weighing in at over 3,000lbs.
Beef cattle breeds like Angus and Hereford tend to weigh more than dairy breeds like Holstein and Jersey, but the largest breeds are the draft breeds like the mighty Chianna and Limousin, whose large weight can be attributed to the fact that they have been selectively bred for generations to increase their strength as much as possible.
|Breed||Average Weight (Cows)||Average Weight (Bulls)|
|Angus||1210lbs (549kg)||1870lbs (848kgs)|
|Limousin||1650lbs (750kg)||2530lbs (1150kg)|
Cows’ diet influences their weight, with certain high-density feeds like corn, oats, barley, and soy helping cows to grow more quickly compared to a natural diet of grass, which is less nutrient-dense.
Read More: Can Cows Eat Corn?
It goes without saying that cows become heavier as they age, but it’s not always obvious just how drastic a cow’s growth can be.
According to Penn. State University, some cattle can grow at a staggering rate of up to 4.5lb (2kg) every day.
Cow calves are around 90lbs when they are born, and achieve their full adult weight after around two years.
Read More: How Long Do Cows Live?
Male cattle are heavier than female cattle, due to their larger heads, denser bones, and higher muscle to fat ratio.
Within males, bulls tend to be larger than steers, and male beef cattle tend to be larger than male dairy cattle.
To sum up, the average cow weighs between 800 and 1400lbs, although their weight varies drastically by breed and depending on their diet, age, and sex.
In the United States, the average weight of a beef cow is 1,390lbs, the average weight of a dairy cow is 1,200lbs, and the average weight of all adult cows is approximately 1345lbs (610kg).
When cows are slaughtered, their weight is higher than the average weight of an adult cow. The average live weight of a slaughtered cow in the US is 1,371lbs (621kg). This makes sense, since cows are usually slaughtered when they are at their heaviest, to maximize the meat yield.