The Guernsey and Jersey dairy cows are known for producing some of the tastiest milk. But what else do these two breeds have in common, and what makes them unique? What can we learn if we compare these two dairy cows? Who will be the "dairy queen"?
The Guernsey and Jersey cows are domestic cattle breeds used in dairy farming. The Guernsey cow has a light red-brownish and white coat and produces quality milk that has a light golden hue. A Jersey cow has a brown fawn color coat and produces high-quality milk rich in vitamins.
Read on to discover the history and the unique characteristics of these two cattle breeds, what they eat, and how much milk they can produce.
A Brief History Of The Guernsey And Jersey Cow
To understand where these two cow breeds come from, we must examine their history.
The Guernsey Cow History
The Guernsey cow originates from the Island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands, United Kingdom. It is thought that a mix of two French breeds of cattle, the Brindle and Alderney, was bred together, resulting in the Guernsey cow. In the early 1700s, the Guernsey cow was recognized as its own breed.
The first Guernsey cattle were brought to the US in 1840, and the American Guernsey Association was established. This was done to maintain genetic information about the breed and prevent interbreeding. The breed was an instant success with dairy farmers, and by 1899 the bloodline was running strong.
The Jersey Cow History
The Jersey cow hails from the Island of Jersey in the Channel Islands, United Kingdom. The Jersey cow, also known as Alderneys, was bred with Brindle, resulting in the Guernsey cow. The Jersey cow was brought to the US in 1850, ten years after the Guernsey was introduced.
The Jersey is a purebred cow that is thought to be derived from North African cattle. This explains why the Jersey cow is more heat tolerant than any other dairy cow. But the exact ancestry of the breed before 1800 is still a mystery. All cattle imports to Jersey Island were banned for 150 years to allow the Jersey breed to flourish. The ban was lifted in 2007.
The Characteristics Of The Guernsey And Jersey Cow
The Guernsey and Jersey cows are domestic cattle breeds with mild temperaments and produce high-quality milk. Each breed has characteristics that make it unique. These two cow breeds have been economically advantageous in the US, leading to a sustained cattle breed that is now kept in large-scale herds.
The Guernsey Cow Characteristics
The Guernsey is a medium-bodied cattle breed mainly bred for dairy purposes. They produce milk that is high quality with a light golden hue. The golden hue comes from the high levels of beta-carotene found in the milk.
Beta-carotene is the pigment that gives carrots their orange coloring, which aids the body in producing vitamin A. Alongside the Beta-carotene, a high percentage of butterfat (5%) and proteins (3.6%) is present in Guernsey milk.
Guernsey cows are light red-brownish (fawn) and white coats with clearly defined hide markings. The lighter fawn coloring helps them endure heat better than a dark-colored breed. The average cow weighs 1,200 to 1,300 pounds when mature.
The Jersey Cow Characteristics
The Jersey cow is smaller than the Guernsey and is also bred mainly for dairy production. They produce slightly less quantities of milk than larger breeds, but their milk is still high quality. Jersey cows produce a creamy-colored milk high in butterfat (4.8%) and protein (3.9%).
Jersey cows have a brown fawn coat with a black muzzle, a white or black tongue, and white or black hair on the tail tips. The average weight of a mature Jersey cow is 900 to 1,100 pounds. Jersey cows are grazers that thrive in a variety of different climates, leading to their global success.
Guernsey And Jersey Cow Comparison Chart
The best way to see the differences between the Guernsey and Jersey cow is to place them head to head in a comparison table.
Country Of Origin
Island of Guernsey, UK
Island of Jersey. UK
Fawn or Red and White
Average Weight Bull (lb.)
1,400 to 1,600
1,200 to 1,300
Average Weight Cow (lb.)
1,200 to 1,300
900 to 1,100
Average Milk yearly Production
Average Milk Daily Production
4 to 6 gallons
4 to 6 gallons
Not endangered (2007)
Not endangered (2004)
10 to 12 years
18 to 20 years
Head-to-head comparison Chart: Guernsey vs Jersey Cow
The Health Of A Guernsey And Jersey Cow
A dairy cow's health characteristics are important as they will interfere with milk production and breeding. Below are the health characteristics of these two dairy cow breeds.
The Guernsey Cow – Health
Guernsey cows are not frail but still susceptible to various health conditions that must be attended to as soon as possible. Guernsey cows are prone to lung disease and udder infections. Calves are very delicate and vulnerable to infection, so extra care should be taken till they reach 6 months.
This is due to inbreeding over the past 100 years. Farmers now regularly swap out breeding pairs with neighboring farms to strengthen the gene pool. Young Heifers (cow breeding for the first time) should not be bred before they reach 2 years. This is due to them producing too much milk with their first calf when underage.
The Jersey Cow – Health
Jersey cows have a good reputation for being healthy cattle. They do, however, suffer from pink-eye and mild udder infections. Young heifers should not calve before they are two years old as it may affect their health and lifespan.
A Jersey calf is delicate, like most calves, as they are prone to hyperthermia and extreme dehydration if they get lost in the open. Jersey calves must wean longer on their mothers than other breeds before switching to a calf milk formula. This assists them in becoming less frail as they age.
What Do Guernsey And Jersey Cow Eat?
Farmers work very close with nutritionists to plan a dairy cow's diet. The feed ratio will vary between farms and the amount of milk production and cattle ages. Baby calves will rely on their mother's milk for the first 24 to 48 hours. Jersey calves are weaned slightly later than other breeds, as this benefits them more.
The calves are then fed a milk replacement, similar to baby formula, for the next 90 days. This will have all the beneficial minerals and vitamins they need to grow strong. The calves are then slowly introduced to grains, hay, and water. Calves are fussy just like us when it comes to feeding, so sweet molasses is added to the grain to sweeten it.
Cows are fed TMR (Total mixed ration), a mixture of grain, corn silage (fermented corn plant), and hay. Farmers will often add in additional nutrient-rich powders if needed. The TMR is mixed in a large mixer that mixes and evenly spreads the different components. This is done so that the cows eat the complete mix and not just specific components resulting in a balanced diet.
Cows will spend between 3 to 5 hours per day eating. They can easily consume up to 100 pounds of feed and drink 25 to 30 gallons of water daily. This high consumption is needed to produce high-quality milk without hurting the cow.
The Pros And Cons Of Guernsey And Jersey Cows
Below are the pros and cons of a Guernsey and Jersey cow.
The Pros And Cons Of Guernsey Cows
The Pros And Cons Of Jersey Cows
Guernsey and Jersey cows are some of the best dairy cows. Each breed has its own characteristics and personality, which make them unique. Farmers all around the globe farm with Guernsey and Jersey cows as they provide rich, high-quality milk that can be used in a variety of dairy products.
Besides the high-quality milk these cows produce, they are excellent grazers and flourish in a wide range of geological conditions, from dry, barren land to high humidity and coastal regions. Guernsey and Jersey cows are not prone to any major diseases, but extra care must be taken with young calves.
These two dairy cow breeds are closely related and offer more advantages to a farmer than disadvantages. But Guernsey is slightly more in demand and provides more to the farmer than a Jersey. Jersey cows are more expensive and offer less milk yield.