The North American Jersey has had an enormous influence on the breed internationally, lifting milk production considerably in all countries and changing the ability of the cow to adapt to modern environmental and management conditions. It is interesting to review the history of the breed and especially the breeding of the past fifty years or so that has shaped the cow as we know her today.To start at any one point in the history of the breed can be a little risky as the influence of previous great bulls and cows can equally be credited with sound breed development.Canada and the USA were prolific importers of Jersey cattle from the Island way back in the 19th century and this continued to the “boom” years immediately following World War II. Many of the very best Jerseys found their way to new pastures across the Atlantic and these superior animals were used to develop the breed. But let’s start with the USA and a point which has been recognised as that where the modern Jersey claims its greatness.
The trio of sires which have had more influence on the breed in the last 40 years are the paternal brothers, Observers Chocolate Soldier and S.S.Quicksilver of Fallneva, along with Milestones Generator. Chocolate Soldier and Quicksilver were sons of Secret Signal Observer and his breeding provides some interesting observations. In the early 1940s, a young couple, Chester and Mary Elliff of Victory Jersey Farm in Texas, along with two other breeders, purchased a herd which included eight daughters of a bull known as Welcome Volunteer – and the Elliffs also purchased the bull. Within the next few years, this bull came to be known as the highest Tested Sire in history with a daughter average of 700 lbs. fat (318 kgs). He was bred by the Shelby County Penal Farm in Memphis, Tennessee and was rich in the blood of the island bulls, Observer and his sire, Jersey Volunteer, a famous son of Day Dream 4th. (Born in 1915, Jersey Volunteer was so named in recognition of the many Jersey men who volunteered for service in the Great War).In 1946, Welcome Volunteer was sold by Victory Jersey Farm to High Lawn Farm in Massachusetts. High Lawn Farm has been described as “the cradle of the breed” in the USA, and moving Welcome Volunteer to this large herd would inevitably have an impact on the breed. Chester Elliff, with two colleagues, trucked the bull, and one of his daughters, Welcome Lady Jean, the National yearling 305day milk champion that was safely in calf to Observer Blonde Signal, another bull with strong Observer-Volunteer breeding, north to New England.The journey was over 2,000 miles, and while the men were eating dinner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “Lady Jean” dropped a heifer calf, later to be called Observer Signal Lady Jean. As she matured at High Lawn Farm, this cow gained recognition as an outstanding production and brood cow. She was bred to the sire, Welcome High Lawn Torono, the most successful son of Welcome Volunteer, to produce Secret Signal Observer. It was from this bull, through his sons, that the Jersey breed changed.At High Lawn, Secret Signal Observer was bred to Chocolate Tristram May, a paternal granddaughter of Welcome Volunteer, and from a deep milking cow family. This was the mating that produced Observer Chocolate Soldier, born in 1962.Two years previously, out west in the state of Nevada, a high producing cow with tests up to 7.0% fat, Cecil Rex Quartz of Willrich, gave birth to a son by Secret Signal Observer – he was S.S.Quicksilver of Fallneva. “Chocolate Soldier” and “Quicksilver” were destined to become highly successful and influential sires, and through them, their paternal grandmother, Observer Signal Lady Jean has become the one animal that today appears in the pedigree of every bull on the USA’s top 100 PTI list and every cow on the Top 200 PTI list!
The third member of the “Great Sire Trio” was Milestones Generator, and he brought a totally different breeding background to the equation. “Generator” was bred by Mayfield Farms in Tennessee and was a son of the bull voted top in the 1972 Great Bull Contest – Marlu Milestone, and out of Beacon Bas Little Lady, winner of the 1963 National Milking Derby and daughter of the Canadian-bred sire, M F Lindale Beacon Bas (the initials “M F” for Mayfield Farms were added to the bull’s name when he was imported from Lindale Farms in Canada. He retained his original name in Canada). While Milestones Generator had very little line-breeding in his pedigree, the general background contains considerable “Volunteer” lines through the famous Brampton herd in Canada. Milestones Generator was purchased as a youngster by Cedarcrest Farms in Alabama where he opened new horizons in milk production with type at that great breeding establishment. His superiority was soon noticed and he was later sold into A.I. through which his influence became profound in the breed in the USA and Canada and eventually extending worldwide.From “Chocolate Soldier”, “Quicksilver” and “Generator”, all born in the early 1960s, came virtually all the outstanding U.S. bulls that we know today.“Chocolate Soldier’s” sons included A-Nine Top Brass, Briarcliff Brave Soldier and Briarcliff Soldier Boy. “Top Brass” was out of one of the best “Generator” daughters, Generators Faustine of Ogston, thus fusing the blood of two of the great bulls. “Top Brass” himself became internationally recognised as a prolific production sire with very good uddered daughters. He was the first U.S. Jersey sire that JISEX introduced to the U.K. and he made a very significant impact on a few herds where he was used, particularly the Upgate herd of Frank Mahon and family in Norfolk. “Top Brass” sired many sons, including Bush River Brigadier that left many outstanding daughters in England, Molly Brook Brass Major, another significant sire in the U.K. and Top Brass Babes Lad, the sire of several successful sons and grandsons.Briarcliff Brave Soldier’s major influence came through his son Yankee FW Chief, the sire of Greenridge FW Chief Althea. “Althea” has more than 20,000 granddaughters today in the USA through her sons which include “Alf”, “Adonis”, “Altheas Lad”, “Dunker”, “Aerostar”, “Select” and “Pitino” among others. Briarcliff Soldier Boy was the sire of Soldierboy Boomer Sooner of CJF, one of the two most influential sires of the past 15 years … but more of him later.The two sons of “Quicksilver” which influenced the breed in the USA were Quicksilvers Magic of Ogston and J S Quicksilver Royal. The latter bull was used extensively in the U.K. and was the sire of Comfort Royal Alf (combining “Chocolate Soldier” and “Quicksilver”).
But the real influence came through the outstanding son of Quicksilvers Magic of Ogston, none other than the great Highland Magic Duncan. And note this… “Duncan’s” dam was sired by “Generator”, and his granddam was by “Chocolate Soldier”! Bingo!!! All three sires wrapped into one package! And what a sire!“Duncan” was born in 1980 and bred by Highland Farms in Maine. At seven months of age, they sold 75 per cent of the bull to Ahlem Enterprises in California, a member of the sire proving group, Jerseyland Sires. The Ahlem family used “Duncan” for two years in their herd, and during this time semen was taken and he was sampled across the Jerseyland herds in California. In May 1985, Select Sires, a leading A.I. Unit in Ohio, acquired “Duncan” from Jerseyland Sires. At that time the bull had his first proof with just 12 daughters in eight herds. A year later he was leading the breed for all production traits and final score – a position he held for two years. Regrettably, “Duncan’s” semen was never released for export as during a routine fecal culture, he proved positive for the bacterium that causes Johne’s Disease. But he left a lasting influence through his sons and grandsons.The “Duncan” sons used in the U.K. include “Lester”, whose granddam was another “Chocolate Soldier” daughter; “Hermitage”, whose dam was by a grandson of “Generator”; “Trader”, whose dam was by “Top Brass”; “Dexter”, whose dam was by “Yankee Chief” and granddam by “Soldier Boy”; “Malcolm”, whose dam was by “Soldier Boy”; and “Barber”, whose dam was a “Yankee Chief” and granddam, a Quicksilver Magic of Ogston daughter. JISEX currently has sons of two of “Duncan’s” greatest daughters, the full sisters, Curtsey Duncan Julie and Curtsey Duncan Julie Two. Milestones Generator’s influence has come mainly through grandsons like “Top Brass”, Quicksilvers Magic of Ogston and “Duncan”, but one of his most prominent sons was Generator HL Earl. This bull sired Bold Venture, currently a very high production sire in the States and through him we have today his grandson “Peregrine” by “Lester”. “Mannix” is another grandson of Bold Venture, and he is by Molly Brook Brass Major, son of “Top Brass”, therefore tracing another line back to “Generator”.
From Generator HL Earl came the next major link in the breed – “Sooner”. Biltmore Farms in Asheville, North Carolina held their Lifetime Opportunity Sale in 1982. This very old herd included over 700 head representing over 20 cow generations of careful breeding, since they began in 1891. Biltmore was a major Jersey breeding establishment, effectively developing a number of early “Century Sires” of the breed. Staff of the American Jersey Cattle Club, among them Maurice Core, a former Executive Secretary, arrived at Biltmore a week ahead of the sale to work on sale arrangements, when they soon spotted and began their admiration for a two-year-old named Biltmore Earl Bee. She was a daughter of Generator HL Earl and a direct maternal descendant of the 1951 and 1952 National Grand Champion, Biltmore Signal Bess Jane. At the time of the sale, “Earl Bee” had a deviation of +9000 lbs. milk over her herdmates! She was an aggressive cow, never afraid to push her way through to the feed bunk.
Ellis and Lena Woods of Community Jersey Farm went to the sale and paid the top price of $5,600 to take her home to Oklahoma. She was carrying a calf to the service of Briarcliff Soldier Boy. In February 1983, “Earl Bee” dropped her calf, a bull named Soldierboy Boomer Sooner of CJF.“Sooner” was just four months old when Select Sires purchased him from the Woods for the sum of $5,000. This was a high price for a Jersey bull calf at the time, but when his first proof came out in January1988, he made a spectacular entrance into the active A.I. sire line-up in third place for milk. In the July 1988 list he had moved to top place and stayed in that elevated position for the next two years. He subsequently dropped down a little but in 1992 his second crop daughters came along and moved him back into top place.“Sooner” came along at the right time for the breed as he was used heavily on “Duncan” daughters with spectacular success producing some of the most outstanding cows of the breed for both type and production. It was the cross of the breed’s impact sire of the ‘80s with the breed’s impact sire of the ‘90s.“Sooner” lived to nearly twelve years of age and died in May 1994. During his life nearly 300,000 units of semen were sold and he became acknowledged as the production legacy for the breed. As with “Duncan”, semen from “Sooner” never left the USA for health reasons, and his use in the UK has been confined to sons and grandsons.From “Sooner” and “Duncan” we come to today’s American Jersey sires, many of which are a combination of these two great sires. At JISEX International, we have imported semen from Sooner Centurion and Midnight Storm , both by “Sooner” out of “Duncan” daughters (“Storm’s” granddam was by “Chocolate Soldier”); and grandsons AU Rock Creek Trimmer and Sunbow Deboer Lexus.The sire which followed “Sooner” into the “elite” status of the breed was Highland Duncan Lester. As his name denotes, he was bred by Highland Farms in Maine, and he was a son of “Duncan” and his maternal granddam was a “Chocolate Soldier” daughter, the maternal line going 17 generations back to the original cow family purchased by Highland Farms in 1886. JISEX International marketed “Lester” throughout the U.K. where he was used extensively and many of the country’s leading cows today are his daughters. The difference between “Lester” and other sires like “Duncan” and “Sooner” is that his semen has been readily available worldwide and he has tens of thousands of progeny internationally, especially as he topped the sire lists in most countries, thus encouraging further use.Today we are using three “Lester” sons, Lester Sambo, whose dam is by “Sooner”, and granddam, the outstanding Duncan Belle, being by “Duncan”( her third dam was also by “Chocolate Soldier”); Bancrest Lester Avery whose granddam was a Quicksilver Royal daughter; and for the first time this year, BIE Bistar, Australia’s leading sire. His dam is a “Sooner” daughter, granddam by “Duncan” and great-granddam by Favorite Saint, a son of one of the best “Generator” daughters, Generators Imp. Recently, the leading sire in the USA has been Mason Boomer Sooner Berretta. In July 1993, he dominated the Jersey line-up and held the top position for some years – today his sons are strong contenders for the top places. “Berretta” was by “Sooner” and out of a high production cow that brought a considerable amount of outcross bloodlines, although two of her great-grandsires were “Chocolate Soldier” and “Quicksilver”. If you visit the USA today you will see outstanding “Berretta” daughters in practically every herd you visit – they stand out for their width and height of rear udder and good teat placements … and high production. Our stud includes “Berretta’s” son, Valleystream Berretta Blaze whose dam was by the leading Canadian sire of the day, Valleystream Silver Beacon, a son of “Quicksilver”. Barbs MBSB Potlach is also a son of “Berretta”, out of a “Duncan” daughter.Barbs Trader Doc has an interesting pedigree as he is by “Trader”, (“Duncan” x “Top Brass”) mentioned earlier, and out of a “Berretta” daughter whose dam was by “Duncan”, again combining these fine bloodlines.Again, “Berretta” eluded the international market as his health tests did not allow the export of semen, and this raises an interesting observation. In Europe, and other parts of the world, because of the existing health regulations, Jersey dairymen have been denied the use of a series of outstanding sires starting with the trio of bulls from the 60s (before semen was imported from the USA), plus “Duncan”, “Sooner” and “Berretta”. Had these sires been available where would the breed in the U.K. be today? The American Jersey Cattle Association is a major force in the USA dairy scene and for many years, has led from the front. Their breeding and marketing programmes have always been innovative and progressive and with the dairymen they represent who constantly search for a more profitable cow, they certainly live up to their mission statement “Making owning Jerseys more profitable than owning any other dairy breed”.
The Canadian Connection. The history of the Canadian Jersey is quite different from the U.S.A. although there has been an interchange of genetics throughout the past century and more. This goes back to August 1868 when Mr. Harrison Stephens of Montreal made an importation from the Island and England for his son, S. Sheldon Stephens, consisting of two bulls and fifteen cows. The bulls were Defiance, bred at Queen Victoria’s Shaw Farm at Windsor, and Victor Hugo, bred on the Island. Later, as the herd increased it was taken over by Mr. Stephens’s brother, Romeo H Stephens, and moved to the village of St Lambert in Quebec. He purchased the bull Stoke Pogis 3rd from the Vermont breeders Mr. Peter Leclair to form the basis of the “St Lambert” strain. “St. Lambert” breeding became the most fashionable and popular on the North American continent until the early part of the twentieth century. In general, the “St Lambert” strain did play a significant part in the early history of the breed in North America, providing large, rugged cows with pronounced dairy capacity, being generous producers of high butterfat milk. The “St. Lambert” blood helped materially in founding and establishing later American strains.As there was no national Canadian herd book before 1906, early Canadian Jerseys were registered in the American Jersey Cattle Club Herd Register. Undoubtedly, the herd which had the most influence on the Canadian Jersey, and to a lesser degree, the American Jersey, was the Brampton herd of B.H. Bull & Sons, in Brampton, Ontario. Virtually every animal in Canada today will trace part of its ancestry to Brampton. The Bull family imported more than 2,500 head from the Island, starting in 1910, taking an average of about 100 annually. Many leading bulls were imported and the two cows which provided the fountain from where the national herd stems are Brampton Basilua, imported as an in-calf heifer in 1929, and Jesters Royal Maid, also imported from the Jersey as an in-calf heifer in 1931. Jesters Royal Maid was judged as the winner of the USA’s “Great Cow Contest” in 1950 – she was an excellent producer but her influence flowed through her progeny with eight out of ten progeny classifying “Excellent” including five “Excellent” Superior Sire sons.
Her pedigree was mostly outcrossed from the popular breeding of the day. Brampton Basilua ( her Island name was “Basilua”) came second in the “Great Cow Contest” of 1950, but looking back today, she has had a greater influence on the breed than her stablemate. An interesting anecdote concerns her almost missing international acclaim and influence on the Jersey breed. In July 1929, she was sold in a Brampton sale of Island breeding to an untested herd. Her purchaser, however, found he could not take a complete load home and left “Basilua” at Brampton! What a stroke of fortune for the breed worldwide! Brampton Basilua was more line-bred than Jesters Royal Maid as she was by a grandson of Jersey Volunteer and carried two lines to a famous bull of the day, Oxford Sultan of Oaklands.Brampton Basilua was the world champion butterfat producer for 19 years, and it is interesting to note that her genetic impact on the breed came through her only two progeny which lived to maturity, her son Brampton Basileus and daughter Brampton Lady Basilua, from which numerous lines have been built.With this brief glance at the early years of Canadian breeding, we skip to the more recent background of today’s Jersey. As with the USA, a few sires had a major impact on the breed, due, undoubtedly, to the introduction of artificial insemination and the national use of bulls.Marlu Masterpiece, a paternal brother of Marlu Milestone out of a daughter of Wonderful Advancer, and Lindale Merit, a son of “Milestone” and out of a daughter of Lindale Beacon Bas were two popular bulls of the 1960s and ‘70s and they set the pace for a long line of bulls with similar breeding.Beauty Doris Master, born in 1965 was bred and purchased by the Canadian Cooperative Sire Proving Programme from Mayfield Farms in Tennessee. He was sired by Beautys Master Advancer, son of Advancer Sleeping Jester, a renowned “type” sire, and out of a daughter of Marlu Milestone, whose dam was by Lindale Beacon Bas. This young bull combined the popular bloodlines used in Canada and Beauty Doris Master became an immensely popular bull across the country. His daughters, which were noted for their outstanding udders, became dams of many bulls subsequently used.The Canadian A.I. Cooperative travelled south to Texas, and the J. Fred Davis Farm for their next influential purchase. They bought JFD Title, a youngster bred the same way as “Doris Master” – a grandson of Advancer Sleeping Jester and Marlu Milestone. “Title” was out of a daughter of former All American Grand Champion cow, Beacon Bas Patience, and she in turn was by Lindale Beacon Bas – again tying all the loose strings into a strong line-bred pattern with great emphasis on style and show type. JFD Title sired dairy cows with increased size and scale, again with good udders and strength in their legs and feet.Sampled at the same time as “Title” was a young Canadian-bred bull, which really influenced the Canadian Jersey breed towards more production. He was Meadow Lawn Bright Spot, a son of Milestones Generator, that had done a similar job in the USA several years before. “Bright Spot” was from an outstanding line of cows based securely on Marlu and Brampton bloodlines. “Bright Spot” was one of the first NorthAmerican sires to be used in the United Kingdom and he left some superb production cattle and a sound springboard for later developments of the British Jersey.The third sire of the 70s and 80s era in Canada was Jodys Imperial Surville. “Surville” was also bred by Mayfield Farms in Tennessee and carried the blood of Advancer Sleeping Jester, Marlu Milestone and Lindale Beacon Bas. His sire was a bull we have not yet mentioned, but one which had a good degree of influence on the American continent, Vaucluse Sleeping Surville. As his name implies, he was by Advancer Sleeping Jester, and his dam was an “imported in dam” Island cow, Surville Roseland Sarita, a lovely cow rich in the breeding of prominent Island bloodlines.“Surville” again had a positive influence on the breed with daughters that were taller, with impressive conformation traits while increasing production.From these three sires of the seventies, “Title” “Bright Spot” and “Surville”, came most all of today’s Canadian sires. Meadow Lawn J Imperial was by “Surville” and out of the same dam as “Bright Spot”. Valleystream JIS Juno was also by “Surville” and out of a “Title” cow, his granddam was by “Silver Beacon” son of “Quicksilver” and the fourth dam was by Beauty Doris Master. There have been a number of bulls connecting these bloodlines, such as “Galaxy” and “Saturn, to name just two.But another influence came through the renowned “Quicksilver”. He was the paternal grandsire of Shamrock Grove Gemini through Stardust Gemini, but “Grove” was out of a Beauty Doris Master daughter whose dam was by Lindale Merit. Shamrock Grove Gemini was the sire of Hollylane Renaissance, whose dam, the famous Franken Monarch Rosel was by a son of Beauty Doris Master, her dam was by “Surville” and granddam by “Bright Spot”. “Quicksilver” was also the sire of the bull that held the top position for production in Canada for several years, Valleystream Silver Beacon. His granddam was also a “Doris Master” daughter. Another very successful Valleystream sire, “Silver Jay” was also by “Quicksilver” and out of a “Doris Master” daughter.Recently, Curtsey Duncan Jude has been used extensively. He brings a slightly different outcross through his sire, Highland Magic Duncan, but his dam is all-Canadian with “Title” and “Silver Beacon” close up. At JISEX, we have his son, Perfection Judes Style Master, whose dam is a complete outcross to most bloodlines. Gusto MC Mickie, is by Milestone Advancer Gusto, and out of a Master Milestone C daughter. Further back, we find common ancestors like Marlu Milestone and Advancer Sleeping Jester.It is interesting to note that while “Quicksilver” and “Generator” blood was used in Canada, that of “Chocolate Soldier” has had very little relative influence… until recent times.The pedigree base of North American Jerseys demonstrates the strength of breeding through great sires and good cow families. In the USA, the path has been directed to high production with functional type and emphasis on fitness traits, while in Canada, style and type has always been a sought-after feature. Of course, there are breeders in both countries who follow their own ideas, and long may this remain as it is vital that alternative bloodlines can be introduced to keep a balanced breeding plan.This brief outline of the breeding of North American cattle will not, for obvious reasons, have included all bulls and cows that have influenced the breed. We have tried to bring in those animals which have had a profound impact although we acknowledge the very many Jersey cattle that have played their part, and indeed, which we have often admired.We will be pleased to talk to Jersey breeders about the breeding of their herd and how one can get the best results from careful selection of successful international bloodlines.We have always had a policy of inspecting the families and progeny of the bulls that we offer dairymen so that we can advise with confidence and first-hand knowledge of the breed.