Jerseys

Other than a few crosses that the farmer bought a year ago, we milk Jerseys.

This is the typical color, but they can be more of a pretty red color all the way to almost black. We also have a cow that’s my favorite. Her name is Artist and she’s painted with big blotches of red and white. She’s beautiful. The farmer calls her “spotted,” which is probably the correct lingo in dairy farming. But, I associate “spotted” with a Dalmatian and she looks nothing like a Dalmatian. She looks like a cow version of a beautiful paint horse. She doesn’t like my camera, though, so it’s really hard to get a picture of her. I’ll keep trying. Persistence is something I have a great store of.

Jerseys are one of the oldest dairy breeds. According to my sources, they have been purebred for nearly six centuries and they first came to the United States in the 1850’s. They are excellent grazers and thrive in an intensive grazing environment. Jersey’s are also very adaptable to pretty much any climate and more tolerant of heat than many other dairy breeds.

This breed is small, only weighing in at around 900 pounds, but they’re little powerhouses because the Jersey can produce more pounds of milk per pound of bodyweight than any other dairy breed. My sources say that most Jerseys produce more than 13 times their bodyweight in milk each lactation.

There used to be two types of Jerseys. One was referred to as the Island Jersey. This “type” was known for its refinement and beauty and was hard to beat in the show ring. The American-type Jerseys were known much more for production than for beauty. They were bred more for qualities that suit them for milk and butterfat production. My source says this type is sometimes referred to as the “Farmer’s” Jersey. They’re usually larger and a bit coarser. After 2 or 3 generations of breeding them for these reasons, the Island type grows in size and loses some of its refinement.

Jersey’s are known for being the most beautiful dairy breed there is. This breed used to be imported into England by aristocratic landowners for use in aesthetically appealing parks. They usually have a docile temperament, but some can have a more nervous disposition. (We have some of those and they’re ornery.) In weight, the breed can fall anywhere between 800 and 1200 pounds.

Jersey bulls are the smallest bulls in the dairy breed, but also the meanest. They have a bad case of “short-man syndrome.” We have one named Woodee. (He came to us with that as his registered name. That’s definitely not a name we would have chosen.) He’s made the farmer climb the fence a few times, but I really like him because he gives me those spotted/painted calves. I’ll get a picture of him sometime soon, too. Most of the time, the farmer artificially inseminates, but we have some cows that are just hard to do that to. In this case, he plays an integral role. Then, we also have Frankie (aka Frankenstein. He was born on Halloween, so that’s what the farmer named him.) He’s still young, but he never stops that grunting, mewing noise. It gets obnoxious sometimes. He obviously believes he’s got something to prove. Dairy bulls are NOT laid back like beef bulls seem to be. They’re high-strung and they don’t waste any time when it comes to breeding. The farmer puts a cow in the pen, and within about 20 seconds, the deed is done. This was something that kind of amazed me when I first started observing farm life. I said, “Boy, he doesn’t waste any time, does he?” The farmer said, “Most Jersey bulls don’t.”

Just call me Johnny-on-the-Spot

This bull isn’t ours, but it shows the coloring of Frankie really well, which is what a typical Jersey bull looks like. They get darker than the females usually. We usually keep Woodee in a pen because he’s full-grown and it can be a tad bit nerve-wracking getting the cows in twice a day when there’s a bull out in the field with them, especially with as ornery as Jersey bulls are known for being. You can’t trust them. Never trust them.

The Jersey cows have the highest percentage of protein and butterfat of any dairy breed. It’s very rich milk. This is the one of the reasons Jersey’s are my farmer’s choice of dairy cows. Our co-op pays based on butterfat and protein and you can’t get better than a Jersey can produce. The average cow produces around 6 gallons of milk a day. Some can do more than that, though. Jersey’s are used a lot when creating cross breeds in order to increase butterfat and protein. We have some Jersey-Holstein crosses and they’re some of our best producers.

I love Jerseys because they’re beautiful, they have pretty long-lashed, brown eyes, and the calves are adorable. (I’m such a girl. Butterfat and protein? Eh, no big deal. But, are they cute?)

Well, that’s the last of my American dairy breeds tutorials. Hope I taught you something! I know I sure learned a lot!

The Dairymaid

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