Annals of Some of the British Norman Isles

By John Jacob, published in 1830.. Agriculture of Alderney

Agriculture of Alderney

Annals of Some of the British Norman Isles Constituting the Bailiwick of Guernsey, by John Jacob, published in 1830.. Agriculture of Alderney, p. 36
[Charles H. Hill: The Guernsey Breed. 1917]

With respect to agriculture and horticulture, we find that Devonshire and Herefordshire are celebrated for their fine cattle and excellent cider. Kent for corn, drill husbandry and hops. Romney Marsh, sheep and fruits, particularly cherries and filberts. Norfolk for turnip and barley culture. Cheshire for cheese. Surrey for Farnham hops. Sussex for fine cattle and Southdown sheep. Leicestershire for large sheep and long wool, while Portland Isle is known far and near from its small, highly flavored mutton, and short wool. Thus it is with the Island of Guernsey, which has long been known for its excellent culture of parsnips as well as for cows, fruits and vegetables, particularly Chaumontel pears, figs etc and broccoli; for cider, for Guernsey lilies and other flowers.
The same may be said of Alderney, with respect to its cows, which for more than half a century have been sought for by persons in all parts of England on account of the richness and produce of their excellent cream and butter. I was told by a gentleman of Alderney that though their cows are much smaller, and require less food than those of Guernsey, yet their produce in cream and butter is as great. This may, however, be disputed by the Guernsey gentlemen, as I could not learn that any fair experiment had been made for the purpose of ascertaining the truth.

In a foodnote Jacob says:
Mr. Sandford the Jurat said that Gen. Bayly when governor of Guernsey taking a fancy to one of his cows, wished to send her to His Majesty. Mr. Sandford consented, upon the condition that the governor should send him one of the best Guernsey sort. He, therefore has had both sorts on trial, and he told the writer that he had found the Alderney sort to give as much, if not more butter than the Guernsey cow. Mr. Sandford also remarked that the Guernsey cows became dry before calving long before the Alderney; at least his did, which, he said, was nearly two months dry; whereas the Alderney cow might be milked, if well fed, almost to the last week before calving.

He also says:
All these islands agree, however, in tethering their cattle in the enclosures, let the latter be ver so small, and in milking their cows three times each day; although some exceptions to this rule may be seen for the Barrack-master, William Hanmer, Esq., whose two cows are among the best of the island, (Alderney)  had his milked only twice a day. The two cows gave 17 quarts of milk at each milking; these were not tethered but were changed every night and morning into two different enclosures, while, on the contrary perhaps the two handsomest cows (one of which had gained the governors prize) belonging to W.J. Sandford, Esq., produced (he said) each 10 pounds of butter of 18 ounces to the pound; these were staked out, and milked three times a day. Major Martin also informed me that he sold to the governor some time ago, one of his cows, which produced 14 pounds of butter per week. I saw this cow, but  could not praise it for its beauty. I could only say, Handsome is that handsome does. The major also said that one of his cows as well as the cow of Mr. Sandfords graced His Majestys park at Windsor. It may be remarked that the general stock of cows and young cattle appeared not to have been well fed.

On page 90, regarding the cattle of the Island of Sark, Jacob says:
Their horned cattle are rather larger than the ALderney sort, but they are not handsome; neither are their cows particularly famous for milk or butter; a fat ox has been known to reach 60 score or 1.200 pounds, but the average weight may be said to be about 700 pounds; these are also killed in Guernsey. Their horses are neither handsome nor large, but they are hard workers.

On page 107 discussing the cattle on the island of Guernsey, the author continues:
The remarks made on this subject, under the article Agriculture in Alderney, where the comparison is made between the cows of that island and Guernsey, will, in some measure, preclude the necessity of entering so largely here upon this head. Both oxen and cows are much superior in size to those of either Jersey, ALderney or Sark. The ox, of the largest kind, fattened chiefly upon parsnips and hay, with grass in the summer has been known to have attained the weight of 1.500 pounds, or 75 score, Guernsey weight, as appears from the evidence of the clerk of the market of St. Peter Port, where the animals have been slaughtered and weighed. Quayle says, page 280, those of 1.200 pounds, or 60 score, appeared not unfrequently; in general, they are fine animals, and commonly worked in the shafts, sometimes singly, sometimes double, with one or more horses before them. They were broken in early, well attended to, very powerful, very docile draft cattle, and used both for carting and ploughing.

The Guernsey cows are infinitely larger, taller, and generally of rather a darker colour, than those which usually sell in England under that name; These, says Jeremie (page 190) come from Jersey, and may be had much cheaper; the Jersey ox seldom or never weighing above 1.100 pounds, or 55 score. Quayle observes that the question of preference is stoutly contested by both islands. Jeremie who is a Guernsey man, contends: If price be considered here, as on other occasions, the criterion of value, we have decidedly the advantage;; the general average being in favor of the Guernsey farmer by two or three pounds sterling the head. This argument, prima facie, may appear to be conclusive; but it does not follow that a large cow will be more profitable to the dairyman than a smaller sort, and which may not be so handsome, but which costs less, requires less food, and perhaps may produce as much butter or cheese as the larger one. Billingsley`s Agricultural Survey of Somersetshire will explain this: The cows of this district being intended chiefly for cheesemaking, the profit arising is in proportion to the quantity and the quality of the milk; size, therefore, is not attended to; but principal regard is paid to the breed whence she sprung. I may here add that upon my estate in Wales, I had, among many others, an Irish cow, which did not cost  above one-third as much  as a large Herefordshire or true Glamorganshire; yet this small and ugly cow gave at least a third more milk than any one of the others. Sir John SInclair, in his COde of Agriculture, page 84 says: Small cows, of the true dairy breeds, give proportionably more milk than larger ones. It is therefore, most probably the difference in the size of the animal which may cause it to bring a higher price than either the Jersey or Alderney cow, and not the intrinsic merit of the animal itself, for the purpose of the dairy only. Mr. Jeremie himself says (page 191) that a Jersey cow will probably produce the same quantity of milk, but it will be much inferior in richness; and therefore, Guernsey butter has invariably borne the palm. By offering the above sentiments I by no means wish to disparage the Guernsey cows, for they are most excellent; neither do I desire to enter into the contest or to give an opinion which animal is best for exportations to England. This must depend on the taste of the English. If a gentleman or a dairyman prefer a fine, handsome, and large cow to a smaller one, he will come to Guernsey for it; if he should choose a smaller sort he will go to Jersey or Alderney. Good Guernsey cows sell now from £14 to £15 each; but the beauty and quality of the animal often make a difference of some pounds in the price. A cow is judged by the mellow feeling of the hide; by the deep, yellow circle around the eyes; the tip of the tail, and the inside of the ears should also be yellow. The states of the island allow the agricultural society £60 per annum to be bestowed in premiums for improvement of their cattle.
Mr Jeremie is certainly very right when he says: The fattest cows are seldom the best milchers, for this is invariably the case; and the best milchers will not always produce the largest quantity of butter.
It may be asked: Does this difference arise from the superiority of climate, the excellency or difference in the cattle, or from the mode of management in Guernsey, namely, that of the cows being staked by the horns, by means of an iron or wooden stake attached to a halter about 12 feet in length? In this amnner it is removed four or five times a day, and allowed a fresh range from two to five feet each time, which causes them to eat the grass off remarkably clean. This together with being constantly led to and from water, is the cause of their being very docile. The cows here are invariably milked three times a day in their flush. In order that the reader may be informed of the true number of the different sorts of horned cattle, which have been exported from the three islands of Jersey, Guernsey and ALderney, for the past six years, the following export table, has been procured by a friend, upon the authority of which the public may rely.
Subjoined is a summary of the table of cattle exported from the different islands:

  Bulls   Cows
 Total export from Jersey, 1822 to 1828 132  8.029
 Yearly average 22  1.337
 Total export from Guernsey, 1822 to 1828    41  2.132   
 Yearly average 7 355
 Total export from Alderney, 1822 to 1828 11     414
 Yearly average 2        69

 In the various parts of England the oldfashioned upright churn is still made use of; in other parts the barrel churn is the only one used; while in some places the veritable patent churn has been adopted. In Somersetshire the common mode is to use no machine at all; the cream alone is put into a deep earthen vessel, or crock,[Thornton skriver crocs] and with the hand they turn it about till the butter comes; this plan generally brings it sooner than any other; sometimes they scald the milk in the first instance, then taking off the clotted cream, it is thus churned into butter. In Devonshire the milk is always scalded before it is churned, and the Devonshire butter may vie with any in Great Britain. The churn generally used in Guernsey is the upright, oldfashioned one; and here they churn the milk with the cream, and generally on the third day; it is commonly put into the churn over night, and when it becomes curdled it is churned, and, in consequence of the acidity of the milk, the butter comes quicker, and perhaps cannot be excelled in any part of the world *** It may be observed here that no cheese is made in Guernsey. Before we take leave of the subject of cattle, I would remark that the manner of weighing the slaughtered cattle at the market is not by the carcass or quarters of beef, as in England, but with the whole loose fat, skin, and head. An ox, not long since thus weighed, produced a total of 1.601 pounds or 80 score; but the loose fat and skin weighed 300 pounds, or 15 score; the neat carcass, therefore, produced 65 score, which is certainly a large ox. Great attention is paid, by the constituted authorities of this island, to the improvement of the breed of cattle, not only by giving small premiums, as before mentioned, but also by enacting laws to prevent the possibility of their becoming degenerated. An Englishman might perhaps be led to imagine that it is contrary to the true spirit of liberty not to be able to choose the sort he may like best; but when it is considered that the honor of the island is at stake, and that, were a free intercourse to take place with France, French cows would in great numbers be brought into the island, and exported to England under the name of Guernsey cows, when they were only French ones; by which means the present lucrative trade of Guernsey cows would be soon abolished, the constituted authorities have, therefore, acted most judiciously in enacting the following law, which I shall here translate for the benefite of the English reader:

Ordinance of the 17th February, 1824, Before Daniel De Lisle Brock, Esq, Present, Etc.- At the Royal Court.

Upon information given to the court that there had been introduced into this island heifers from France, whose age and condition render them unfit to be butchered within four months, fixed the law -other circumstances also having given reson to believe that the intention is either to keep them for cows, and by that means to degenerate the breed, which the inhabitants of this island have more and more endeavored to improve; or else for the purpose of fraudulency exporting the same into England, which in either case would prove a fatal blow to that branch of industry; namely, exporting our cows to England - upon hearing the conclusion of the attorney-general, the court has ordered that, provisionally, and until necessary, steps are taken to preclude all sorts of French cows from being imported into this  island from France, it is hereby forbidden, after the 10th of March next, to any person to import from France, or elsewhere, any heifer, of what kind soever it may be, under penalty of confiscation of the same, and a fine at discretion of justice, not exceeding £10 sterling per heifer so brought into the island; as well to be paid by the master of the vessel bringing the same, as by the owner of the heifer so brought, or, in default, thereof, by person in possession of the same. And all masters of vessels, or boats, bringing cattle from France shall be bound to render an account thereof, within 24 hours after their arrival, to the constable where the cattle are so landed, as well as to furnish a list of those who are the proprietors, as well as of those to whom the respective cattle are consigned, under a penalty of a fine, at the discretion of justice, not exceeding £5 sterling. And the constables are hereby ordered to keep a register of the cattle so landed in their respective parishes; and all the fines shall be applied, onefourth to his Majesty, one-fourth to the poor, and half to the informer.
    (Signed) Charles Le Febvre
     Depute Greffier du Roi.

©• Hans Nørgaard • Egebjergvej 33 • 5771 Stenstrup • Telefon:. +45 6226 1341 • E-mail:

© Developed by DKviaNET A/S