The Jersey breed originates from Jersey Island in the Channel Islands and is probably the fastest growing dairy breed Worldwide, with numbers increasing rapidly in many countries. They are proving extremely popular both as a pure breed and also for crossbreeding.
Jersey cows produce exceptional milk quality, with very high fat and protein percentages. They are a lot smaller than most dairy breeds and have come out very well on feed efficiency trials. Purebred bull calves are not as valuable as achieved from many breeds but a crossbred calf has increased beef value.
Jerseys are capable of milking well on a wide range of systems. Jersey crossbred cattle have performed very well on extensive grassland systems and also on more intensive farms that are pushing for high yields.
The UK’s animal data centre has analysed the proofs of the most popular dairy breeds in the UK, allowing breeds to be compared, and the Jersey ranks first equal for Lifespan – they are built to last for many lactations!
Jersey cows have a quiet temperament and have very good fertility – they get in calf quickly! Jerseys also have excellent udders, which are well attached with good teat placement, and they are noted for their hard wearing feet.
In the USA cross-breeding has been increasing apace for two decades with crossbred births more than doubling, and a 60% increase in mixed and crossbred herds milk recording. The Jersey has been the number one sire for use on Holstein heifers during this transformation.
Most farmers entering crossbreeding cite two reasons for using a Jersey in their programme:
- To reduce calving problems in first calving heifers
- To increase milk components
Yet they’ve discovered some unexpected benefits too, especially:
- Improved reproductive performance
- Fewer health problems
- Longer productive life
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