American Cattle - Channel Island Cattle (1875)

By Lewis F. Allen

American Cattle - Channel Island Cattle

Lewis F. Allen: American Cattle: Their History, Breeding and Management. NY: Orange Judd Company, 1875.

Chapter XIII
The Alderney - Jersey - Guernsey - or Channel Island Cattle

We regret that Youatt - so elaborate with soem other breeds - has devoted less than two pages of text to this singular, unique, and truly valuable race. And from other English authorities we obtain but sketches in various unconnected accounts. Youatt calls them - to England - a "foreign breed". They are so, being originally from Normandy, a Province in the north-western part of France, but they were long ago transplanted, and became the peculiar race belonging to the British Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney, lying off the coast of Normandy.

We glean some partial descriptions of them from foreign publications; but as we have them here, probably in as high qualities of breeding and excellence as in their native Islands, we describe them as we have seen. Beginning with the head - the most characteristic feature - the muzzle is fine, the nose either dark brown or black, and occasionally a yellowish shade, with a peculiar mealy, light-coloured hair, running up the face into a smoky hue, when it gradully takes the general colour of the body; the face is slightly dishing, clean of flesh, mild and gentle in expression; the eye clear and full, and encicled with a distinct ring of the colour of the nose; the forehead bold; the horn short, curving inward, and waxy in colour, with black tips; the ear sizable, thin, and quick in movement. The whole head is original, and blood-like in appearance - more so, than in almost any other of the cattle race - reminding one strongly of the head of our American Elk. The neck is somewhat depressed - would be called ewe-necked, by some - but clean in the throat, with moderate, or little dewlap; the shoulders are wide and somewhat ragged, with prominent points, running down to a delicate arm, and slender legs beneath; the fore-quarters stand rather close together, with a thinnish, yet well developed brisket between; the ribs are flat, yet giving sufficient play for good lungs; the back depressed, and somewhat hollow; the belly deep and large; the hips tolerably wide; the rump and tail high; the loin and quarter medium in length; the thigh thin and deep; the twist wide, to accommodate a clean, good sized udder; the flanks medium; the hocks, or gambrel joints crooked; the hind legs small; the udder capacious, square, set well forward, and covered with soft, silky hair; the teats fine, standing well apart, and nicely tapering; the milk veins prominent. On the whole she is a homely, blood-like, gentle, useful little housekeeping body, with a most kindly temper, loving to be petted, and, like the pony, with the children, readily becomes a greatfavorite with those who have her about them, either in pasture, paddock, or stable. The colours are usually light red, or fawn, occasionally smoky grey, and sometimes black, mixed or plashed more or less with white. Roan colours, and a more rounded form, are now and then seen among them, but we do not like them, (as they savor of a shorthorn cross, which they could not have,) as anything but their own blood and figure, and that of the ancient stock, deteriorates them - as Alderneys. The Guernsey cows are usually somewhat larger and coarser than the Jerseys, and Alderneys, showing more the rotundity and symmetry approaching the shorthorns. So we have sometimes seen them.
Our portraits of the sexes, taken from liife, give a correct representation of the true Alderney. They are excellent specimens.
She is simply a milking cow, and for nothing else should the race ever be bred. The bulls may be used in crossing on our common cows, to give the Alderney quality and colour of milk in the heifers thus descended from them; but by no infusion of any other blood, can the Alderney cow be improved in te rich, yellow qualities for which her milk is esteemed. Along the coast of Hampshire, in England, she is frequently kept and bred, and many of them are scatered over other counties, but chiefly in individual, or small numbers for family use, to yield the milk and butter so highly prized by nice housekeepers.
 The distinguishing quality for which the Alderney is prrized, is the marked richness, and deep yellow color of her milk; yet it is moderate in quantity - eight to twelve quarts a day being a good yield in the height of her deason - but what wonderfully rich in cream and butter. A gentleman in New England, who had for many years kept quite a herd of them on his farm for dairy purposes, a few years since told us that he sent much of his butter to private families in Boston, where he obtained about double the price of good common butter, and that onehalf or even less of Alderney milk, mixed with that of the common cow, gave it a colour nearly equal to that of the pure breed. We have had like accounts from others who kept them.
Alderneys were occasionally imported into America as early as fifty years ago and in considerable numbers within the last twenty years. The late Mr. John A. Taintor, of Hartford, Connecticut, was probably the largest importer, having brought in a good many about the year 1850, and later, from which he bred and sold many choice cows and bulls. Other importations have been made into New York, by the late Mr. Roswell L. Colt, of Paterson, New Jersey, and by others into Boston, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Philadelphia. They are now considerably kept in various parts of the New England States, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and a few of the States further south, and west. They are favorites where well known, are increasing in numbers, and bear good prices - from $150 to $300 each, for cows, depending on appearance and quality. Natives of a milder climate than ours, they are more delicate in constitution, and require good shelter and food. They will not rough it so well as our common cows, or some of the English breeds; but they well repay all the care given them, and should not be neglected. John Lawrence, an English writer, quoted by Youatt, gives an account of an Alderney cow, which made nineteen pounds of butter each week, for three successive weeks, " and the fact was so extraordinary, as to be thought worthy of a memorandum in the parish books." Extraordinary, most truly, for a cow of any breed.
There is no necessity for telling a story of large quantities of either milk or butter being produced by an Alderney. They are not made for great yields of anything.
Our portrait of the bull much resembles that of the cow, but showing an arched neck, and the more masculine appearance common to his sex.
The chief foreign writer on Alderney cattle, is Mr. Le Couteur, a native, and, if living, a resident on one of the Channel Islands. They are the cattle of those Islands; kept and bred with scrupulous care to their purity of blood, and the preservation of their distinctive qualities. The people of the Islands have laws regulating the introduction of foreign cattle among them, and the exportation of their natives abroad. It is estimated that upwards of four thousand cattle of the pure breed are annually exported from the Channel Islands.
Their mode of keeping them is quite systematic, and their feed somewhat peculiar. Parsnips, of which the Islands yield great quantities are much fed to them in winter and spring, as they are thought to promote, in a high degree, their flow of milk and its richness. The general facts detailed by Mr. Le. Couteur, however, are much as we have related. Their calves are reared in the ordinary way, sucking the cow but a short time, and fed on milk diluted with meal and water, or whey, yet kept with care, and a good supply of food, until fitted for grass. The heifers usually bring their first calves at two and a half to three years old. In short, the Alderneys are calculated altogether for the pail.

As a working ox, or beef animal,

We leave them out of the question. They are little fitted for either, compared with the best of English breeds, or even our good native cattle. Indeed, they make no special claims for those purposes, although used to some extent for both in their native lands. Here, we do not think of them in these connections. That the cow, out of milk, will fatten to a reasonable carcass, or the steer, if made so, will feed fairly, and produce a tolerable quality of beef, we have no doubt; but as that is not the purpose for which they are sought, or reared, we dismiss them as not particularly  valuable in either item of labor of food.

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