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Our Breeds: Jerseys

Breed History
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.

Learn More:
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:

(taken from "Learning About Dairy...A Resource Guide for the 4-H Dairy Project," Cooperative Extension Service, June 1996)

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