Holstein, Guernsey and Jersey Cows

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What is the approximate weight of each? What temperment characteristics does breed have?

-- paul (primrose@centex.net), July 15, 2001


Holsteins are, I think, about 1500 lbs. Jerseys around 900 to 1200. Guernseys I'm not sure, except they're a little bigger than Jerseys but that was back when Jerseys were smaller than they are now (when I was a kid a 1000 pound Jersey was a pretty darn big Jersey, now its about average).

Holsteins give upwards of 10 gallons a day and Jerseys around 6 (these are production averages, a home cow may give less - or more!) Holstein milk is lower in butterfat and protein than Jersey milk though. When production averages for butterfat and protein are compared, Holsteins give about the same quantity as Jerseys, only suspended in more water. Jersey milk is commanding premiums in the commercial dairy industry right now because of this. Guernsey milk is higher in butterfat and protein than Holstein but not quite so high as Jersey. Can't say what the average quantity is in a Guernsey but I imagine its along the lines of the Jersey. Don't know for sure.

Holsteins aren't much for beef, they're too rangy and generally take to long to put on enough weight to make it worthwhile to butcher them. They are not thrifty by any stretch of the imagination. I have heard that Holstein meat tastes fine, never eaten it myself (that I know of).

Jerseys do very well on pasture, and most grass-based dairies I know of run Jerseys. I've heard some run Guernseys as well. Jerseys are a very thrifty cow (e.g. they put weight on well with good pasture, and don't require a lot of grain, in fact most folks I know who keep them as a family cow only grain them to get them to come in to be milked)

I have been told that Guernsey milk makes better cheese, something about the difference in fat particle size of the Jersey milk. I don't know, I've only made cheese from raw Jersey milk, and raw cheese at that. It seemed very good to me.

Jersey AI'd to Angus or beefalo will throw a very fine beef calf, though straight Jersey beef is also excellent. The fat is tinged yellowish but it tastes fine.

The Jersey temperament is generally very sweet and tractable - EXCEPT the Jersey bull. A Jersey bull is the meanest, most dangerous farm critter I have ever known. They are smart and bad tempered. I've been told that Jersey bulls kill more people than any other breed. I don't know if its true, but it wouldn't surprise me. If your Jersey cow throws a bull calf, cut it and turn it into a steer right away. Don't wait. Sometimes people will wait because they think an uncut bull calf will put on weight faster. Don't take a chance with a Jersey bull calf.

Its like they took all the mean out of the Jersey cows and distilled it into the bulls, they are that unpredictable. The Jersey COWS are great, sweet, even tempered. But not the bulls.

The only Holsteins I've ever been around were commercial dairy animals, which isn't a real good way to get a feel for temperament as a family cow. I've never heard they're particularly one way or the other though.

Again, as far as I know, Guernseys tend to be similar in temperament to Jerseys. I have very little personal experience (OK, none really) with Guernseys.

Keep in mind that we're talking averages here. An individual Jersey cow may be skittish and flighty and bad tempered even though as a rule the breed is sweet and gentle. You still have to look out for individual variations in any breed. I've seen huge Jerseys and small Holsteins, but I would avoid extreme variations from breed standards just as a general rule of thumb.

Try this site for more info:

Oklahoma State Breed pages

-- Sojourner (notime4@summer.spam), July 16, 2001.

Paul, Holstein--The standard weight for Holstein cows is 1250 lbs, and bulls should weigh at least 1800 lbs. Many cows weigh 1300 to 1600 lbs and some bulls weigh over a ton. Dispostion: The cows are quiet and docile, but the bulls may be vicious. Grazing ability: Holsteins are excellent grazers, on good pasture. They consume large amounts of forage, they do not thrive as well on poor pastures as the Guernsey and Jersey. Their milk is lower in fat than any other dairy breed. It averages about 3.67%, but vsries from 2.5 to 4.3. Guernsey--cows average 1100 lbs but vary from 800 to 1300 lbs. Bulls average 1700 lbs. Disposition: Guernseys are alert and active, but docile and easily managed. They are not nervous, and do not spook easily. Grazing ability--Guernsey is a good and active grazer, but not equal to the Holstein on good pasture, but better than the Jersey on poor pasture. Theeir milk is 5% fat, which has a golden color. Jersey The cows range in weight from 800 to 1100 lbs, and bulls from 1200 to 1600 lbs. Disposition: Cows are inclined to be nervous and sensitive. Children, other animals and noises can spook them. This can make them difficult to manage and to breed. They can be pets under good management, or mean under poor management. The bulls of this breed are quite vicious. Grazing ability: No dairy animal exceeds the Jersey in grazing ability on good to medium pastures. They are small and very active, when not upset by surroundings their maintenence are lower than cows of the other breeds. Jerseys milk averages 5.3% fat, they do not produce large quantities of milk, but produce it economically because of their small size. This is from the 3rd edition of Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Production, copyright 1968. I think the weight of the Holstein may have gotten larger since then, but I believe Jerseys and Guernseys are about the same. Each breed does have it's own association, and they are on the web, so you could double check these facts. Hope this helps. Kathie

-- Kathie in Western Washington (twinrosefarm@worldnet.att.net), July 17, 2001.

We have a Guernsey cow, a Guernsey bull calf, a Holstein banded calf, and 2 Jersey bull calves. We havn't banded them all yet.

The cow is great, very tame and no problems whatsoever. She's an easy keeper. She gets about 2 gallons of grain twice a day, hay, and has a huge pasture. She will let any calf or calves nurse her. She is feeding all 4 calves. Steve milks her now and we bucket it to the calves, as the bigger ones were gettin kinda rough with her bag and we didn't want to hurt her. Her milk is golden color, and I get 1 quart of thick cream per 5 quarts of milk. Butter is yellow. Very, very good tasting milk I think, very rich. I have no idea how much she weighs, but she is a big cow. Inbetween a Jersey and Holstein.

Here in Kentucky, the Holstein steers are worth way more than the Jerseys. Don't know why except everyone says it takes longer for the Jerseys to grow big.?? Our Jerseys are growing good, but not as fast I think as the Holstein. The Guernsey calf is tall, and not so heavy as the Holstein, tall and skinny built.

-- Cindy in KY (solidrockranch@msn.com), July 17, 2001.

Cindy: Jerseys have a yellowish tinge to their fat. When sold for meat the USDA grading system won't certify the meat grade A because of the color of the fat (has nothing to do with taste or quality, only appearance). So Jersey steers don't bring much at auction.

-- Sojourner (notime4@summer.spam), July 17, 2001.

My father who was born and raised in Boston MA area, tells a story about going to a cattle auction in Nettleton AR with my mother's father after my parents were married. It seems that this auction just ran the stock down a long alley in the barn rather than having an arena with seats around it as modern sales have. My father, recently a city kid and discharged from the Navy, said he was terrified as huge bulls ran down the alley with the buyers standing on either side. The bulls just ran down the alley, never looking at the bidders. He finally decided that if these men thought there was nothing to worry about neither would he. Shortly after, someone at the head of the alley yelled "Jersey BULL!" My father said every man among them climbed the alley wall to a height of about 6'. Not knowing what sort of monster had been turned loose, my father followed suit. He said this little bitty bull with a nasty set of horns came running down the alley stopping occasionally to hook said horns at the feet of someone so foolhardy as to have stopped lower than the rest of the men. Although my grandfather had a number of sweet patient Jersey and Guernsey cows during my childhood, I always remember his having Angus bulls for their tractibility.

-- marilyn (rainbow@ktis.net), July 17, 2001.

Sojourner, I was raised with a Geurnsey and then a Holstein. Now have a Jersey. Jersey cows are generally more emotional creatures than Geurnseys, so will bond more deeply with whoever takes care of her. Geurnseys are more laid back and thus, less skittish and nervous with strangers. Better around children generally. But then, my own Jersey is safer around my little one than she is around me. She knows how to tease me, and she does it to get a response. But when my little girl goes out to pet her, Pearl stands perfectly still and docile, as though she knows this human is more fragile.

The yellowness of the fat of the Channel Island breeds is due to the fact that they cannot turn Beta Carotene into Vitamin A. This makes their butter and cheese yellow, and also thier meat fat yellow. It is beta carotene in there that makes it yellow. Thus, since we know now that beta carotene is extremely valuable to us, the market should be changing, shouldnt it? Dont count on it. lol In fact, in Europe, yellow fat on beef is as expected as yellow butter. Our white butter and white beef fat over here Stateside is very unappetising to Europeans.

And yes, sojourner, those Jersey Bulls are extremely dangerous. Hubby had two relatives killed on separate occasions by Jersey bulls. Not a good idea to have them around.

-- daffodyllady (daffodyllady@yahoo.com), July 19, 2001.

Great answers from everyone , but how can you resist those sweet little faces ? I can't , I just bought a bull calf who I will ban at 3-4 weeks .It is the most stubborn thing I have ever seen .Its noww falling asleep fighting the chain ! Its been 15 mins !Hopefully it means it will live .

-- Patty {NY State} (fodfarms@slic.com), July 19, 2001.

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