Guernsey cattle are one of three breeds from the Channel Islands. The others being the Jersey and the now extinct, Alderney.
While the exact origin of Guernsey cattle is unclear, (many believe the breed developed from animals brought over from France) it is known that the Guernsey was recorded as a separate breed back in 1700. To maintain the purity of Guernsey cattle, imports of foreign cattle on to the island were banned in 1789. However, during World War II Alderney cattle were merged into the breed following their evacuation.
Guernsey cattle are renowned for their milk (hence the title of the “Golden Guernsey”). Today, the breed is well established in America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK. Guernsey cattle are often added to other breed herds to improve the quality of milk.
Like the Jersey, the Guernsey is a very efficient converter of feed to product. The Guernsey can produce high quality milk on 20% to 30% less feed than larger dairy breeds.
Guernsey cattle – Characteristics
Guernsey cows typically weigh 450-500 kilos. The coat varies in colour from fawn/yellow to reddish-brown with white patches. The breed has good heat tolerance.
Bulls typically weigh 600 to 700 kilos. Heifers usually come into milk at around 2 years old. The rich, yellow coloured milk is high in both butterfat (around 4.7%) and protein (around (3.6%). Tests have also shown the milk of the Guernsey to be considerably higher in vitamin D, vitamin A and calcium than ‘average’ milk. American research found that 60% of Guernsey’s carry the Kappa Casein B gene which helps in cheese production. A Guernsey cow will produce around 6,000 litres of milk a year.
Guernsey cows are docile and have the lowest incidence of calving difficulty than any of the major dairy breeds. Calves are big at birth, so easier to rear. They mature quickly and can calve at around 22 months.
Guernsey cattle can thrive in all climates and in all management systems. If you are interested in purchasing Guernsey cattle, please get in touch.
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