Breed Facts

The Guernsey is a breed of cattle which is commonly used in dairy farming. It’s colour is fawn and white and they are most famous for the rich flavour of milk.

The Guernsey, as its name implies, was bred on the British Channel Island of Guernsey. It’s believed to been developed from 2 breeds which were brought over from France, Isigny cattle from Normandy and the Froment du Leon from Brittany.

It wasn’t until 1700 that the Guernsey was first recorded as a separate breed. Imports of foreign cattle being brought into Guernsey was forbidden in 1789 by the law to maintain the purity of the breed.

An important economic resource for the island was exports of cattle and semen. In the early 20th Century a number of Guernsey Cattle were exported to the USA and to the Commonwealth countries. Now, today the breed is well established in Britain, the USA,Australia, Canada,New Zealand and South Africa.

EGCS have maintained the Pedigree Herdbook for Guernseys since 1884, and are responsible for the accuracy of the pedigree system and for breed improvement.

There are 4,000 pedigree cows on the Mainland, with a further 1,000 pure bred cows in “Commercial” herds. Guernseys are also being added to other breed herds to improve the overall quality of the milk supply and EGCS have been involved in sourcing close to 1000 cows in the last 5 years for these herds.

Average production levels continue to rise year on year and the Breed Improvement Plan (GGBP) has the goals of increased Production as expressed by Weight of Fat + Protein, with improved Butterfat % and better Udders and Legs and Feet.

Type Classification is carried out on a regular basis by CDI classifiers and paid for as part of the Levy system, which has been in place for the last 25 years and relies on an annual fee per cow which covers Registration and Classification of all Pedigree Herds.

The Guernsey Breed Improvement Programme (GGBP) is unique amongst UK Dairy Breeds in that it makes use of a Breed Specific Breeding Index (Guernsey Merit Index) that is a combination of Production and Type in the approximate ratio of 60:40. It is delivered through the use of semen from young bulls selected on the basis of Parent Average PTA, with only limited amounts of semen available if and when a bull gains a proof, primarily to breed sons of the better bulls.

Guernsey Island with 1200 Milking cows are partners in the GGBP and between us we are using semen from 10-12 young bulls a year mostly bred in the UK, but also using the best young bulls from the USA. This represents a usage rate of 1 bull per 500 cows, which shows the commitment of our Breeders to the GGBP and compares very favourably with any other Breed Improvement Scheme elsewhere in the world.

The GMI was developed as part of a DairyCo funded project. DairyCo wanted a way to measure its success and to that end EGCS calculate average GMI for all calves registered in each calendar year. The average GMI is rising year by year for both production and type across the breed.

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