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Information About the Guernsey Cow

Samarpita Choudhury
From the picturesque islands of the English Channel comes the famous Guernsey cow which is known the world over for its high quality of milk.
The Guernsey cow milk is known for its quality, but owing to its high fat content, the popularity of this cow has recently begun to decline.
Guernsey is an isle across the English Channel which was conquered by the British, following the 1066 Norman Conquest. The Guernsey cow gets its name from these islands. Archaeological studies suggest that the islands were known to have housed humans since long, as long as 10,000 BC.
Apart from Guernsey, the other two famous breeds of the English Channel islands are Jersey and Alderney.
The Mediterranean climate boosts the breeding and also the milk production of these breeds, and thus has significantly contributed to making these breeds the top choices for dairy. Here we will look at some facts about Guernsey cows.


The history of the Guernsey dairy cow has it that during the rule of Normandy, prior to the British conquest, several monks were sent to the islands of Guernsey, with the objective of educating and civilizing the natives.
These monks were sent by the Duke of Normandy, Robert. The first batch of monks brought cattle along Brittany. In due course, some other groups of monks were sent to the islands who came in with a batch of cattle from France.
This is the origin of the Guernsey breed of cows which bear similarities with the Isigny cow (now extinct) and Froment du Léon (critically endangered). Soon, these cows from the island began to be exported to other parts of Britain, and they were the primary source of milk, milk products, and meat.
Apart from the British nations, these cows were exported to North and South America, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Japan, South Africa, and New Zealand. Among all the breeds of the Channel islands, Guernsey appealed the most to the breeders and the economy at large. The richness of the milk's quality earned the title, 'Golden Guernsey' for this cow.


✦ With the growing demand and popularity of these cows, efforts were made to bring quality enhancement in the size and the milk of Guernsey cows. The milk of this breed has a yellowish tinge to it, which is caused by the high amounts of beta-carotene and omega 3 and 6. This has led to the yield of golden-yellow milk.
✦ The Guernsey cows have a prompt reproductive development. They can bear calves even at 22 months of age, unlike other varieties of cows.
✦ The Guernsey Cow has a heat-resistant coat, which makes this breed heat-tolerant, thus reducing the risk of stroke caused by excessive heat.
✦ The average size of a Guernsey cow is between 1100-1200 lbs.
✦ The color is usually a combination of pale brown and white or off-white.
✦ The Guernsey bulls are quite aggressive and notorious unlike the docile and submissive Guernsey cows.
✦ Even with an average to small size, these cows are able to convert more feed into yields of butterfat and proteins. This makes it one of the most efficient cow breeds.
✦ They are also easy to maintain and breed.
✦ When talking about breeding, it is important to mention about Guernsey Global Breeding Programme (GGBP) which was spearheaded in 1992. The objective was to make the cow breed one of the most economic and productive ones.
✦ The aim of GGBP was also to ensure greater longevity, along with productivity, as well as to improve the quality of health of the breed, ensuring minimum use of medical aid.
✦ The milk production of Guernsey cows is not considered among the highest, but the quality of the milk is certainly very good. This makes it a primary dairy cow.
✦ The average quantity of milk produced by a single Guernsey cow in a year is roughly around 6000-7000 liters.
✦ There are speculations that the Guernsey cows are fed a special type of diet which leads to an increased amounts of beta carotene. However, the diet is not special in any respect. The feed is as normal as the feed of any other cow breed.
✦ Most Guernsey cows carry the Beta Casein A2 gene contrary to A1. The milk also has a cancer reducing substance, although information is yet to be confirmed.

Similarities between Guernsey and Jersey Breeds

The Guernsey is believed to be the closest kin of the Jersey. Despite this, there are some differences between the two.
✦ The Jersey cow is more heat-tolerant than the Guernsey, resulting in higher productivity.
✦ The size of the Jersey is smaller than that of the Guernsey.
✦ Apart from the typical brown to fawn colors of both Jersey and Guernsey cows, the former has an additional black shade near the nose, feet, and also around the eyes.
✦ The Guernsey is known for its docile and submissive nature, unlike the Jersey, which though not aggressive, is more curious and excited than its kin.
✦ The Jersey has a darker shade of browns and fawns, compared to that of the Guernsey.
In conclusion, it could be said that owing to the current lifestyle, there is a need to curb the high fat content in milk, more so in Guernsey milk. However, it is also said that Guernsey cow milk contains A2 proteins and not A1 which are commonly found in American cow breeds. Research shows that A2 proteins are easily digestible as opposed to A1.