Suppose you want to introduce a new dairy cow onto your family farm. In that case, the Guernsey cow may be the pick of the litter. The Guernsey cow is friendly, an excellent grazer, and even lives longer than your standard dairy cow. This breed of cow has earned its title as The Golden Guernsey for its rich, creamy, golden-yellow milk. It’s also a better option for beef than a Jersey cow. Still interested? Keep reading to learn more!
Quick Facts about the Guernsey
|Place of Origin:
|Isle of Guernsey, Channel Islands
|Bull (Male) Size:
|Cow (Female) Size:
|Fawn and white
|High milk flow
|4.68% butterfat, 3.57% protein
The Guernsey Cow is a breed of dairy cattle originating on the Isle of Guernsey in the English Channel. It’s thought to have descended from nearby cattle in the area. This breed is a part of the Taurine cattle breeds, meaning it’s a direct descendant of the aurochs.
There are theories about how the Guernsey cow came to the English Channel, but nothing is concrete and, therefore, can’t be proven. The first record of this breed was around 1700. For a while, the exportation of the Guernsey was prohibited to maintain the purity of the breed. The Guernsey came to the US around 1830, but it wasn’t until 50 years later that exporting this breed turned into a lucrative business.
Guernsey cows are adorable, mild-tempered cows. The muzzle is cream-colored, and the feet are amber. The cow and bull walk gracefully, balancing their strong, broad shoulders and back. You shouldn’t expect much nervousness or irritability when handling this friendly breed for its milk.
A few differences help the Guernsey cow stand out from its competition against standard dairy cows. Guernsey cows are well known for their superb milk productivity on pasture and their milk composition. Their milk has a beautiful golden-yellow shade because of high amounts of A2 beta-casein. This earned them the name The Golden Guernsey.
Because of the Guernsey’s adaptability, they can maintain milk production throughout the year regardless of location. They can produce a large amount of milk from grazing alone and even eat 20%-30% less feed than standard dairy cows. Heifers start calving around 22 months and produce milk around 2 years old, much sooner than your average dairy cow. They even live longer, reaching 10 to 12 years of age! Their milk has a high fat, high protein content, perfect for butter and cheese making.
Appearance & Varieties
The Guernsey cow is medium-sized, but it appears small compared to standard dairy cows. You can identify this breed from the fawn-coloring with white splotches on the shoulder, on the hips, and sometimes behind the elbows. Some Guernseys have a reddish-brown tint to their coat with the same white splotches.
This breed is like the Jersey Cow, a popular dairy cow in North America. Both breeds are neighbors from the Channel Islands and look almost identical. The primary difference between these two breeds is size. Jerseys are one of the smallest dairy cows out there, so if you can’t tell the difference, reference the size of the cow. The Jersey Cow is smaller than a Guernsey.
Unfortunately, population numbers have dropped in the last twenty years. Only about 6,000 Guernsey cows are registered in the US. The problem is supply and demand. Commercial dairy focuses on quantity over quality, and the Guernsey can’t meet the demands of this industry. Still, you’re likely to see these cows on small farms. Small farms recognize the value in these beautiful cows and treasure the quality of their milk.
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Are Guernseys Good for Small-Scale Farming?
If you’re focused on milk production or want to try your hand at homestead-fresh dairy, the Guernsey cow could be the perfect fit for your small farm. This cow is an excellent pasture-based milk cow that’s perfect for the family homestead. She’s small, but she eats less feed and produces milk that is higher in fat and protein. Plus, these cows are easy to handle. Perfect for novice-milkers! You can count on a steady milk supply and enjoy the tasty riches of grass-fed butter and cream!
Featured Image Credit: critterbiz, Shutterstock