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Jersey Breed Popularity Growing due to Higher Milk Solids

06 July 2016

There has been an increase in the number of dairy farmers getting into the Jersey breed, following the removal of milk quota, that’s according to Kevin Brady – chairman of the Jersey Society of Ireland. Eoin McCarthy reports for TheCattleSite.

“We have noticed over the last number of years, particularly in the last three years, there has been an increase in new people getting into the Jersey breed,” Mr Brady said.

Mr Brady spoke to Eoin McCarthy as members of the World Jersey Cattle Bureau Tour visited Moorepark Research Centre in Ireland to review work being conducted by Teagasc involving Jerseys and Jersey crosses.

Mr Brady explained the motivation behind increased interest in the Jersey breed.

“We have it from two sides. We have it where people are converting from Holstein black and white herds into Jersey herds, and we have also people that are newly entering into dairying and they have decided to go for the Jersey breed.

“Their reason for going into the pedigree Jersey breed is better milk solids, capacity to have a higher stocking rate and better price for their milk.

“It’s down to milk solids and a better price for their milk - that’s their main driving force,” Mr Brady said.

Promoting the breed

Mr Brady outlined the efficiency associated with milking Jersey cows, claiming that the Jersey breed is very efficient in terms of feed conversion.

“She has high milk solids fat of up to 6 per cent and protein of 4 per cent, and with modern genetics cows are capable of producing up to 6,000 litres, even more if you are in an intensive high input system.

“Obviously here in Ireland we are in a grass based system, so she fits in well with the grass based system. She is a small cow with good fertility, easily fed and easily managed.

“You can stock her at a higher rate because of her feed intake would be the equivalent of in or around 15 or 16 kgs dry matter per day,” Mr Brady said.

'Ideal for Ireland'

“With any other breed in terms of Holsteins or the black and whites, you have a high production cow who has a high input, who requires a lot of concentrates in order to maintain her and to get the production that people seek. But our payment system here in Ireland is based on A + B – C, which is fat plus protein minus processing costs.

“So we feel that the Jersey is ideal for the Irish situation. We have cross breeding and the reason for cross breeding was to improve the constituents in the Holstein, and you had the hybrid vigour, but in time when you cross breed the question is where do you go after your first or second crossing.

“We feel with the Jersey breed that you will have a consistency, you have a consistency in genetics. You have particular blood lines, you have the New Zealand genetics, you have the Danish genetics and if people were looking for high yield there is the American genetics, but the preferred genetics here in Ireland is a combination of both New Zealand and Danish [genetics],” Mr Brady added.

When asked about the reasons for this preference, Mr Brady referred to the similarities between dairy farming in Ireland and counterparts in New Zealand.

He also praised the comprehensive Danish breeding programme, which they have being researching for decades.

“First of all, New Zealand are coming from a grass based system, the Danish have a very robust breeding programme and they have a combination of good production and high milk solids.

“The Danish have a very strong data collection process, they have been collecting data since the 1960s so all their information is very detailed,” he said.

The Jersey bull calf

Mr Brady highlighted that dairy farmers need to focus on milk production and the price they receive for their milk rather than concentrating on the Jersey bull calf.

“If you are to look at the price you are to get for your black and white milk and compare it to Jersey milk, you will get in or around 10 cents a litre above the co-op base price.

“In a very good year when prices are slightly higher that will bring you up to 12 or even 14 cent a litre extra, that more than compensates for the loss of the price you will get for your bull calf, added to which you would have an extra lactation or two per cow - that in itself will add to your overall life time production and income from that cow.

“I would not see the bull calf as being an issue. I think if you are in milk production your focus needs to be on the production of milk solids, what you get for your bull calf is purely incidental at that stage,” Mr Brady added.

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