Difference Between Cows and Heifers

Cow and Heifer come under the class of Mammalia in the kingdom Animalia. Usually, a female offspring of a cow that hasn’t yet borne any child is called a Heifer.


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A fully grown-up heifer that has given birth to another offspring is called a Cow.

Key Takeaways

  1. Cows are mature female cattle that have given birth to at least one calf; heifers are young female cattle that have not yet given birth to a calf.
  2. Cows are typically used for milk production and breeding; heifers are primarily raised for breeding or, in some cases, for meat production.
  3. The distinction between cows and heifers is based on their reproductive status, with heifers eventually becoming cows after calving.

Cows vs Heifers

The difference between Cow and Heifer is that a Cow is fully grown and is ready to reproduce. But Heifers are still immature females that haven’t fully developed.

Cows vs Heifers

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Cows come under the class Mammalia because of their ability to feed their offspring with their milk.

The gland which produces milk is called mammary glands, and nipples are present beneath them for the calves to suck them.

Their physical appearance and weight are depended on the breed from which they originate.

Heifer(Cow) is a young female cow under three years old and has not yet given birth to any calf.

Once she gives birth to a child, a heifer automatically becomes a Cow. A heifer must have at least one calf, and she can only begin to produce milk.


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonCowHeifer
ReproductionCows can reproduce calves and have 2-4 calves in a lifetime.Heifers are immature and cannot reproduce at this period of life.
Milk SecretionCows produce milk through their mammary glands and have mature nipples to secrete it for the calves.Heifers can only suck the milk that mature cows produce, and it takes at least a delivery to start making milk for their younger ones.
Composition of BodyWhen it comes to the health composition of cows, cows have been reported to have lesser fatty acids as compared to heifers.Heifers have a better composition of fatty acids, so they are healthier to consume.
UddersThe cows have significantly developed udders.Heifers do not seem to have udders.
VulvaThe vulva is the primary reproductive organ of the cow. This is present below the tail head of the cow. This structure is more protruding in fully-fledged cows.Vulvas are not prominent in Heifers, which is why they haven’t reproduced yet.


What are Cows?

Generally, cows are collectively called the female version of cattle. But colloquially, we use the term ‘Cow’ to denote them.

Cows have matured females that can reproduce. They come from the bovine family of the kingdom Animalia. A baby cow is called a calf, regardless of sex. 

Cows come from the order Artiodactyla. They have mammals who possess even-toed hoofs. Cows also have horns on the upper part of their body.

This is a unique possession for the ones present in the Bovinae. Mature female cows weigh around 1000 kg.

The physical appearance of cows can differ from the regions where they exist.

Since cows possess the ability to reproduce, they also can secrete milk for their younger ones through nipples which are present at the bottom of their belly.

Cows are to be milked two times a day per week. This is for the better production of milk in them.

Cows are ruminants who graze. Grass continues to be the natural food that cows feed upon. Their tooth structure is perfectly made up to chew the hay they feed.

They possess a chambered stomach, and the rumen is the most significant chamber.

The rumen contains microorganisms that help them to digest cellulose. All these four chambers digest the same food before the digestion period ends.

This multi-chambered process is similar to all ruminants. Cows are one of the humans’ most friendly animals and a livestock occupation to many dairy farmers worldwide.


What are Heifers?

Heifer is a female offspring of a cow that hasn’t yet given birth to any child. Heifers grow up to become a cow, but until it reproduces, it is tagged as a heifer.

All the genetic details of heifers remain the same as that of the cow.

Heifers weigh almost 50% of their matured weight at this stage. At this period in their life, all the body parts, including their horns, grow to reach their complete growth.

At this stage, heifers do not have matured reproductive organs like cows and cannot produce younger ones.

Also, the teats of heifers are not fully grown to secrete milk. Heifers are known to be the best ones to consume; they are also known for their taste.

A heifer which is pregnant with its’ first calf is called a Bred Heifer. If a heifer does not breed after four years, it is called a heiferette.


Main Differences Between Cows and Heifers

  1. A cow is a mature female bovine, while a heifer is an immature offspring of a cow.
  2. Both of them come from bovine families, but heifers are the female calves of a cow that grow up to be cowed.
  3. A cow can reproduce its younger ones since it has matured organs for reproduction. However, heifers are unable to do so because of their immaturity.
  4. Heifers do not have udders and prominent nipples. But the vulvas of cows are large enough for insemination and can thus get pregnant.
  5. Heifers attain 50% of the total weight that they can achieve in their lifetime at this stage. Cows are 1000 kilograms, and this is just an average. The weight of a cow can vary according to its surroundings.
  6. Cows can vary in size and physical appearance according to their environment. Heifers generally are seen with the same genetics as their parents.
Difference Between Cows and Heifers
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002203029775937X
  2. https://academic.oup.com/jas/article-abstract/70/6/1775/4705344
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