The first Jersey cattle were imported to Guatemala from the USA around 1892 by John Gruchy.
Originally from Jersey Island, he was then the manager for a farm in the San José Pinula Valley in the Guatemalan Central Highlands.
Early in the 20th century, some of these Jerseys and their descendants moved to nearby mountains, and from here the breed spread to the rest of the country. Importations have continued, mainly from the USA and Canada, originally just live animals with semen playing a major role more recently. The breed has adapted well to the diverse climatic and geographical conditions of Guatemala to become the main dairy breed for the country - Jerseys make up over 60% of all registered cattle in the country.
Agriculture is Guatemala`s basic industry, involving mainly coffee, sugar, bananas, cardamom spice and various fruit and vegetables. Most dairy farms are traditional, varying in size from 250 acres, to one farm of 180,000 hectares. Milking is mostly through simple parlours, and feeding ranges from grazing (mostly kikuyu grass) to total mixed ration and parlour concentrates. Jersey milk receives a premium price in Guatemala, with most used to make various cheeses (mozzarella, sofr cheeses, liquid cheese, parmesan). Larger farms process their own milk into products and deliver them directly to nearby city retail outlets for better profits.
The Asociacion de Criadores da Ganado Jersey de Guatemala (ACJ) was formed in 1984 by a group of Jersey breeders. Their first aim was to save the breeding information of the Jerseys, and they began the first private registry for any of the cattle breeds in Guatemala. This was recognised by the government in 1992, when it declared the ACJ registry as the official system for the country, passing a law to ensure other breed associations kept their records to the same standard.
The ACJ has registered a total of over 10,000 Jerseys and continues to promote the breed as an efficient alternative for all dairy farmers in Guatemala, including holding the largest single breed cattle show in the country.
In April 1998, the ACJ hosted the WJCB annual Council meetings with a programme including visits to farms in a range of diverse environsments around the country, as well as a sugarcane farm and mill, a coffee farm, a floral enterprise and some of Guatemala`s many important tourist attractions. (ACJ press release, and The Jersey at Home, Summer 1998).