The Jersey Cow in the Island:
The ‘Jersey’ breed of dairy cow originates from the Island of Jersey and it is quite distinct from all other breeds of livestock. Renowned for its beauty, ease of management and natural ability to produce rich creamy milk, the ‘Jersey’ is a product of the Island, its soil, its climate, its people and their history.
The early influences on the breed are shrouded in obscurity, as with most domestic breeds, although legislation introduced by the States of Jersey in 1763 preventing the importation of cattle, to protect the local market for agricultural products, ensured the evolution of the ‘Jersey’ breed.
Jersey farmers concentrated on developing their cattle from the limited local population and their skill ‘fixed’ the special characteristics of the ‘Jersey’ resulting in the cattle we see today. The Island breed is recognised internationally as a unique population of livestock.
The ‘Jersey’ is predominantly fawn in colour, although they can range from almost pure mulberry (black) to broken coloured, including patches of white.
The most distinctive features of the ‘Jersey’ are its black nose with a mealy white band round it, the traditional dished face, refined bone and graceful beauty.
The Jersey Herd Book:
The Jersey Herd Book is a register in which is recorded information relating to the bovine population, including the owner, a description of the animal, its ancestry, date of birth and many other facts. The Jersey Herd Book was formed on the 4th April 1866 and the ancestry of all pedigree ‘Jerseys’ in the world can be traced back to the Herd Book here in the Island.
Colonel C P Le Cornu, pictured here, was Honorary Secretary of the Society at the time and initiated the Jersey Herd Book.
The first animal registered in the Herd Book was a bull named ‘Dandy’, owned by Mr James Godfray of St. Martin, and the first cow registered was named ‘Daisy’, belonging to Mr. P. Paisnel of St. Clement.
In addition to holding pedigree details the Herd Book also records an animal’s production and conformation, which is very important for assessing the breeding value of individuals so that the farmers can improve their stock, and therefore, the general condition of the cattle population.
Every animal is appraised visually and scored against a scale of points to describe its physical conformation, known as ‘Herd Book Exams’.
Initially production performance was measured by milk testing at shows during the 1860’s, with 24-hour butter tests starting in 1893. These were replaced in 1912 by a system of recording the weight of milk yielded by the individual cattle, which was the forerunner of the system of milk recording carried out to this day.
You can learn more about todays the Jeresy cow in its island home under the section of ‘Agriculture & Cows’ on this website.