The Guernsey, as its name implies, is a native of the English Channel Island of Guernsey. It is believed that the breed was developed from two breeds brought over from France: Isigny cattle from Normandy and the Froment du Leon from Brittany.
Little concrete evidence exists about the cattle of Guernsey prior to the 19th century. The vice-president of the Royal Guernsey Agricultural & Horticultural Society, de L. Luff, was quoted saying: “Most theories, such as one that suggests cattle brought to Guernsey by monks who had been banished from Mont Saint-Michel in 960 AD formed the foundation of the present breed cannot be verified and must be regarded as conjecture or pure fantasy.”
The docile breed has made its way to all corners of the world. Today, the Guernsey is well-established in Britain, America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
The breed is popular in dairying and is known as the “Golden Guernsey”. It is renowned for the rich flavour of its uniquely golden milk, which is due to an unusually high content of beta carotene. Guernsey milk also has the Kappa Casein B gene, which improves cheese quality.
The fawn/red and white cow is an efficient converter of feed to milk solids. The World Guernsey Cattle Federation reports, Guernsey milk contains 12% more protein, 30% more fat, 33% more vitamin D, 25% more vitamin A and 15% more calcium than average milk.
The Guernsey is an excellent grazer and has been developed for pasture-based milk production. She is an ideal breed for an intensive grazing system.
English Guernsey Cattle Society (EGCS) is the organisation responsible for the accuracy of the pedigree system and for breed improvement. It has maintained the pedigree herdbook for Guernseys since 1884.
According to the society, there are 4,000 pedigree cows registered on the mainland, with a further 1,000 pure bred cows in commercial herds.
EGCS have been involved in sourcing close to 1,000 Guernsey cows in the last five years for other-breed herds looking to improve the overall quality of their milk supply.
More information on the breed can be found on the English Guernsey Cattle Society website.
Photo credit: English Guernsey Cattle Society