The 21st century has been extraordinarily good to the Jersey breed.
To say there has been a surge in appreciation for small brown cows is a huge understatement. In fact, according to annual registration totals reported by the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA), the breed’s popularity has never been greater.
Total AJCA registrations in 2016 were 111,410 — the fourth most in the history of the association, which was founded in 1868. It’s the fifth time ever that registrations were over 100,000. It is also the ninth year in a row that AJCA posted a record exceeding 1953’s 87,692 registrations . . . a high watermark that previously stood for 55 years.
One number from not so ancient history illustrates how incredibly far Jersey popularity and value to dairy farmers has come: The all-time low in registrations was 33,104 in 1973.
By comparison, the 567,956 registrations in the five-year bar graph shown above are more than all of what occurred during the entire 1960s — or the ‘70s or ‘80s or ‘90s. Put another way, the 1,514,784 total registrations since 2000 is more than during the previous 30 years combined.
It’s a turnaround that has not been driven by sympathy, but by a “show me the money” attitude.
Three years after registrations bottomed out in 1973, a do-or-die push to save Jerseys from commercial extinction — Project Equity — was created in 1976. That effort ultimately encouraged processors to pay for everyone’s milk based upon the protein and other high value components it contained.
AJCA Executive Secretary and CEO Neal Smith has called it, “without question the greatest project ever undertaken by a breed organization on behalf of its members.”
The producer-funded idea grew slowly at first, but eventually led to multiple component pricing (MCP) that is used in nearly every Federal Milk Marketing Order today. As MCP adoption grew, so did Jerseys’ commercial competitiveness and producer popularity.