Jersey cows are one of the most appealing breeds in the cow world. They have a delicate, refined face with lovely, wide brown eyes. Jersey cows have typically feminine facial features with a distinctive, tipped-up black nose bordered by white. They are smaller in frame, usually between 800-1000 pounds in weight, with the typical bony dairy conformation. Their udders are large and most often, are white or pinkish. Jerseys can vary in color from charcoal gray to black. However, most Jerseys are fawn colored. Jerseys are a horned type of cattle so many farmers de-horn them when they are very small for safety. Jersey cows are a little more high-strung than some other dairy breeds. However, most of them settle right down to be gentle cows as long as their routines are familiar.
Jersey cows were first developed on the Island of Jersey in the English Channel near France. This breed is one of the oldest dairy breeds, being specially managed and bred for over 500 years. Since 1789, the law on the Island of Jersey has forbidden the importation of other breeds of cattle to maintain the purity of the herds. Jersey cattle were first brought to the United States in the mid 1800s.
Jerseys produce more milk per pound of body weight than any other breed of cow. They also have amazing feed to milk conversion ratios. Jerseys produce well on pasture, giving creamy milk with an amazing amount of bright yellow cream. A high-producing Jersey on high nutrient concentrates can produce five to seven gallons of milk every day.
Although a Jersey produces lots of milk for her body size, the amount of milk that she gives makes her a good choice for small-time hobby farmers. Rather than buying a Holstein that may give 8-10 gallons a day and need plenty of feed, a Jersey cow will produce a more manageable amount of milk on less feed. Additionally, because her milk supply is less than a Holstein, Jerseys are much less likely to develop mastitis.
Most Jerseys are very fertile cows. They come to maturity earlier than any other breed of cattle, so if you have a young heifer, keep her separated from any intact males after she reaches around six months of age.
Jersey bulls are smaller than many other dairy bulls, weighing in at 1200 to 1800 pounds. However, they make up for their size with aggression. Although there is some variation among individual animals, Jersey bulls are some the most aggressive bulls and should be kept with extreme caution. These bulls are very masculine, with broad, muscular shoulders.
In the past decade, commercial dairies have begun to include several Jersey cows in their herds of mainly Holsteins to help with the butterfat content of the milk produced. Other dairies have gone to mostly Jersey cows to help keep feed costs under control. Small-time farmers enjoy keeping a Jersey cow for their family's milk needs and to be a nurse cow for orphan calves. The small Jersey cow can be found all across the world throughout Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand.