The Guernsey is a medium sized
dairy breed, generally coloured fawn and white but can vary from
solid fawn to dark red and white. Brindled cattle were formerly
quite numerous but are less common today. The skin has a deep
yellow pigmentation. Females weigh circa 500-550kgs and Males
600-650kgs. Genotypic information from the International Bovine
Haplotype Map Consortium shows that the Guernsey is genetically
distant from other European breeds.
The Guernsey breed is noted for its robustness.
Guernseys have strong feet and legs with good dairy strength
and are tolerant of a wider range of temperature than most European
The Guernsey is an excellent grazing animal
that matures early and is an efficient converter of feed to product.
Guernseys are extremely docile with very high calving ease even
when crossed with larger beef breeds.
Guernseys produce high component milk of a
deep yellow colour with distinctive mouth-feel and flavour. This
colour is remarkable in other products such as butter, cream,
cheese and yoghurt. Guernsey milk contains very high levels of
the protein Beta Casein A2 as opposed to the predominance of
the protein Beta Casein A1 that is present in the milk of other
Guernsey beef is of a distinctive texture
and flavour and has been praised as a superior product by leading
|GUERNSEY ISLAND AVERAGE MILK YIELDS 2013
|LEADING HERD - Les Jaonnets Herd owned by Mr.
|LEADING ANIMAL - Les Jaonnets Shakas Princess
It is thought that cattle were
first brought to the Island of Guernsey from France in the latter
part of the 10th century. They were then bred in relative isolation
until the early 19th century and in complete isolation since
that date. This isolation has meant that the island is free from
many of the normally occurring cattle diseases. The island cattle
are tested free from Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, EBL, IBR, BVD
and Leptospira hardjo. Importation of semen from Guernsey bulls
has been permitted since 1976 and the island is now at the heart
of a Guernsey Global Breeding Programme, which has been developed
to stimulate continued genetic improvement of the Guernsey breed.
In 1950 the Island population was circa 2,000 cows but
as production per cow increased this fell to around 1,600 cows
and has remained static for the past 8 years.
Breeding and conservation
The World Guernsey Cattle Federation
is attempting to co-ordinate a Global breeding programme for
Guernseys (GGBP) in order to preserve variation and avoid genetic
drift and inbreeding while improving production, efficiency and
health traits. A pilot programme using the Island and UK populations
is proving very successful. All cattle are compared with the
use of a breed specific index, the Guernsey Merit Index (GMI),
which is weighted to achieve the agreed objectives of breeders.
The Guernsey Global Breeding Programme uses teams of young bulls
selected on merit index and used sparingly and at random in order
to spread the genetics of the highest merit cows across the breed.
The following graph compares the progress in Predicted Transmitting
Ability (PTA) of the daughters of GGBP Bulls with those of all
bulls, Non GGBP Proven and Farm bulls from 2005 - 2012
In 2012 the Royal Guernsey Agricultural &
Horticultural Society's Herd Book Council decided to add female
fertility to the Guernsey Merit Index. The new index GMIF will
be used for mating selection to produce the next generation of
Island GGBP bulls.
The Island population is the smallest amongst
the WGCF Federated countries but has the largest Effective Population
(Ne137). In 2013 it was decided to fine tune the Island's population
management in order to avoid undue future increases in inbreeding.
The adoption of
EVA software to optimise the balance between genetic gain
and inbreeding should increase the sustainability of the Island's
contribution to the Guernsey Global Breeding Programme.
Please contact Bill Luff [email protected]
for further information.
Web Site: http://www.worldguernseys.org