Our Breeds: Jerseys
The Jersey breed has a romantic and adventuresome history, as
does the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. Before 709 A.D.,
this island was connected by a land bridge to the mainland of
France. There are many interesting theories of where the original
cattle that formed the breed came from; one contends the Jersey
originated in India and migrated across the land bridge, another
that Jerseys came from the early stocks of Brown Swiss of Alpine
origin, and a third that they are a refinement of the Normandy
and Brittany spotted cattle. The precise details of the evolution
of the breed before 1800 is unknown.
The earliest record of Jerseys imported to America dates to 1815.
Today the states with the largest number of Jerseys are California,
Ohio, Vermont, Oregon, Tennessee, Wisconsin, New York, and Texas.
Breed Characteristics and Notes
Jerseys vary greatly in color, but the characteristic color is
a shade of fawn with or without white markings. The muzzle is
black encircled by a light colored ring, and the tongue and switch
may be either white or black. Jerseys are more refined and display
more dairy character than other breeds. They are the smallest
dairy breed, with a mature size of about 1,000 pounds.
Strengths of the breed include excellent heat tolerance, high
fertility, young age at first calving, calving ease, and high
pounds of milk solids produced per pound of feed consumed.
The Jersey breed has been considered by many as the most progressive
in recent decades. Since the 1970s, they have a greater percentage
increase in number of registrations than any other breed. Highlights
of the organization's progressive attitude include early adoption
of a grade genetic recovery program (3 generation program which
offspring of grade Jersey cattle can reach full registry status),
early endorsement of USDA's Predicted Difference for Production
(now PTAs), selection for functional type, and formation of a
Jersey Marketing Service. In addition, the Jersey organization
is the only breed association with a separate and full-time organization
devoted to milk marketing. National All-Jersey was formed in 1957
to increase the demand for Jersey milk. One of their achievements
was the promotion of multiple component pricing of milk, which
has raised income to Jersey farmers because of the high protein
percentage found in Jersey milk.
For more information on Jerseys, contact the breed association.
American Jersey Cattle Association
6486 E. Main St.
Reynoldsburg, OH 43068-2362
or visit their website at: www.usjersey.com
(taken from "Learning About Dairy...A
Resource Guide for the 4-H Dairy Project," Cooperative Extension
Service, June 1996)
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