About The Breed
The Guernsey is a breed of cattle used in dairy farming. It is fawn and white in colour, and
is particularly renowned for the rich flavour of its milk, as well as its hardiness and docile disposition.
The unique qualities of the milk produced by the Guernsey cow have made the breed world famous. The
milk has a golden colour due to an exceptionally high content of beta carotene. Beta-carotene is a source of Vitamin A, which
has been touted to help to reduce the risks of certain cancers. The milk also has a high butterfat content of 5% and
a high protein content of 3.7%. Guernsey cows produce around 6000 litres per cow per annum. In the US Guernsey cow average
16,200 pounds of milk per year with 4.5% fat and 3.2% protein. Guernsey cattle are known to produce the highest percentage
of A2 milk of all breeds of dairy cattle.
From the 1950's to the early 1970's, Golden Guernsey trademark milk was sold in the US and Canada
as a premium product. The golden color produced by beta carotene bound to the fat in the milk was the biggest marketing point
and the source of the brand name. Only milk from Guernsey cows could be marketed under the Golden Guernsey trademark. The
advent of homogenization and various changes to the way milk was priced and marketed, spelled the end of Golden Guernsey branded
milk. The trademark is still maintained today by the American Guernsey Association and is in use by various small-scale dairies
around the country. GG Golden Guernsey Dairy or Milwaukee, WI, originally owned by Foremost Farms and now Dean Foods, retained
the Golden Guernsey name long after they discontinued selling 100% Guernsey milk and the milk they sell is produced primarily
by Holstein cattle today.
A Guernsey cow in the USA.
As its name implies, the Guernsey was bred on the British Channel Island of Guernsey . It is
believed to be descended from two breeds brought over from nearby France; Isigny cattle from Normandy and the Froment
du Léon from Brittany. The Guernsey was first recorded as a separate breed around 1700. In 1789, imports of foreign
cattle into Guernsey were forbidden by law to maintain the purity of the breed although some cattle evacuated from Alderney
during World War II were merged into the breed.
Exports of cattle and semen were for a while an important economic resource for the island and in
the early 20th century a large number of Guernsey cattle were exported to the United States. Today the breed is well-established
in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, South Africa and elsewhere.
The cow weighs 450 to 500 kg, slightly more than the average weight of the Jersey cow which is around
450 kg (1000 pounds). The bull weighs 600 to 700 kg which is small by standards of domestic cattle, and they can be surprisingly
aggressive. The Guernsey cow has many notable advantages for the dairy farmer over other breeds. These include high efficiency
of milk production, low incidence of calving difficulty and longevity. Inbreeding is becoming a concern due to the small
gene pool in a given area, and may be solved in most cases by exchanging cows with no overlap in lineage from other farms.