Dec. 12 2017 07:00 AM

This breed fits our farming style and has many overlooked advantages.

We all have something that makes our farm unique, and we all have differing ways of accomplishing our goals as dairy farmers. For me, one of our farm’s standout differences is our herd of registered Guernseys. I am often answering the question, “Why Guernseys?”

The easiest answer would be rooted in our history. Three generations of our family have worked with this breed accounting for over 65 years, as our farm’s first registered Guernsey was purchased in 1952. There are still descendants of that original cow in our herd today. I don’t know the exact story behind my Grandpa’s decision to purchase his first Guernsey, beyond his admiration for the breed, but it was obviously a wise choice.

We have been a 100 percent Guernsey herd since about 1995 when the last grade Holstein was finally sold. Guernseys just fit our farm philosophy, and matched or exceeded their black and white counterparts on energy corrected milk. Meeting our production goals has been feasible with a medium-sized cow that can effectively convert feed at the bunk and in the pasture into high-quality milk with high fat and protein.

Guernseys also as a breed have gained the nickname of Golden Guernseys not just from their coloring, but also from the coloring of their milk. I still get a kick out of people wondering about the golden yellow color of our ladies’ milk, which comes from its higher beta-carotene content.

Since we currently have room in our new barn, we house a handful of Jerseys as well. Having finally been introduced to another breed this past year, I am even more appreciative of the Guernsey cow’s docile personality and easy handling. At the same time, Guernseys are still aggressive enough to compete at the bunk and be successful in mixed breed operations. It really is the perfect combination that makes the Guernsey’s temperament a pleasure to work with.

I guess having really known nothing else but the Guernsey breed growing up and for the majority of my dairy career so far I was rather naïve to its many advantages. Even more of those have been revealed by research and genomics. The Guernsey breed has no known recessives, while other breeds have documented undesirable genetic recessive disorders. Guernseys also as a breed have the highest percentage of A2A2 animals, adding yet another quality point to already unique milk. I have a little confession on my last point, calving ease. I honestly didn’t even know this was a common issue on other farms, as we very rarely have to assist with our Guernseys at calving time.

There’s a reason Guernsey’s current slogan is “Take a Look at us Now.” As a whole as a breed we are doing a better job at embracing the Guernsey cow for what it is, with its many natural breed advantages. Are you considering another breed to add to your herd or crossbreeding for improvements? I encourage you to consider Guernseys. I am proud that these fawn and white cows have given me a unique position in this industry. And I’m proud to continue to work with the Guernsey breed in the future.

Darleen Sichley

The author is a third-generation dairy farmer from Oregon where she farms in partnership with her husband and parents. As a mother of two young boys who round out the family run operation as micro managers, Darleen blogs about the three generations of her family working together at Guernsey Dairy Mama. Abiqua Acres Mann's Guernsey Dairy is currently home to 90 registered Guernseys and transitioned to a robotic milking system in 2017.