Economic values of milk volume (VOL), fat yield (FYLD), protein yield (PYLD), live weight (LWT), longevity (LON), calving interval (CIV) and somatic cell score (SCS) were derived for Holstein and Jersey cattle, based on milk payment systems of four major milk buyers in South Africa. The economic value of somatic cell score was calculated for only two of the payment systems. A bio-economic model was used to calculate economic values by determining changes in profit arising from an independent unit increase in each trait. Economic values for VOL, FYLD and PYLD varied substantially among the payment systems; particularly PYLD which ranged from ZAR 7.62/kg to ZAR 21.88/kg. Payment systems that do not pay for milk volume resulted in a negative economic value (-ZAR 0.49/l) for VOL. Live weight and CIV had constant economic values across payment systems (-ZAR 6.62/kg and –ZAR 5.75/day for Holstein and –ZAR 7.49/kg and –ZAR 4.19/day for Jersey, respectively, for LWT and CIV). Economic value of LON varied slightly with payment system (ZAR 1.09/day to ZAR 1.23/day in the Jersey and ZAR 3.59/day to ZAR 3.68/day in the Holstein). The economic value of SCS differed substantially between the two payment systems and was higher in the Holstein (-ZAR 949.26/score and –ZAR 1795.57/score) than in the Jersey (-ZAR 433.87/score and –ZAR 912.90/score). Relative emphasis of traits in the breeding objectives for South African dairy cattle should take due cognisance of the diversity in milk payment systems.