The Guernsey cow might not be the stereotypical choice for an Irish dairy farmer to add to the milking herd but using this small and powerful dairy cow has plenty of benefits.
The breed hails from the small island of Guernsey, which is located in the English Channel and it is thought to have been first developed back in the 1700’s. The breed’s true origins are unknown, but it comes from the same sub-type of European Blond cattle as Jersey cattle.
Some have suggested that the breed is a relative of Normandy cattle and Froment du Léon breeds, though this has never been proven. However, Guernsey cattle are famed for their unique, high-quality milk. The breed produces a rich, yellow coloured milk and they usually have a golden coloured coat. Red and white variations are also accepted.
- Temperament: A very docile and relaxed breed, Guernsey cattle are very easily managed.
- Calves: Guernsey cows are mainly used for milk production purposes, though calves are usually large at birth and show plenty of vigour, meaning there is a potential re-sale value. The average weaning weight of calves is 75kgs. Guernsey cows are also easy calvers, usually having minimal problems.
- Bulls for beef: Guernsey bulls also have their value to the beef markets. At full maturity, a Guernsey bull can weigh up to 700kgs and bulls usually display good refinement, strength and an even contour.
- Adaptable: The Guernsey breed is more than capable of adapting to most climates. In fact, their light-coloured coat allows them to cope with high heat and they can also maintain production levels in most weather conditions. They are excellent grazers and are ideal for intensive grazing systems.
- Use less feed: In comparison to other larger dairy breeds, Guernsey cows can produce just as much milk with just 70% of the feed requirements. Now that’s what you call savings!
- Early Maturing: Guernsey cows are early maturing, with cows capable of calving without problem at just 24-months old. Heifers also usually come into milk at around two years of age. Guernsey cows also live longer and produce more calves per lifetime than other breeds.
- Crossbreed benefits: Guernsey cattle also show desirable characteristics when crossed with other breeds, especially when crossed with Holstein cattle. They usually pass on their superior milk quality, whilst also retaining their docile nature.
- Milk Quality - Down to the most important stuff, the liquid gold. Guernsey cows actually produce golden coloured milk. This milk contains the Kappa Casein B gene, which is famed for improving the quality of cheese. Their milk also contains up to 12% more protein, 25% more Vitamin A, 33% more Vitamin D, 15% more calcium and 39% more cream than milk from other breeds! The average Butterfat for milk from Guernsey cows is 4.68%, with protein levels averaging 3.57%.