Breeding the Jersey at Home

By Thomas Francis Le Ruez

[World Jersey Cattle Bureau. Ninth International Conference held on the Island of Jersey from 13th to 21st May, 1979]

thfleruez-01.jpgFirst of all, let us remember that we live in a tiny Island, where land is scarce and its prosperity over the years has depended on intensive farming. Although often taking second place to the Jersey Potato, the Jersey Cow has adapted to this and was bred to produce a lot of milk with the minimum amount of food. Her true value is in producing the largest return per acre. She also has to be presentable and respond to our system of tethering or more modern-day methods.
In compiling this short paper, I feel that I have to look back to nearly a century, when serious consideration to breeding on the best bloodlines was already in practice. At that time Mr. J.P. Marett of St. Saviour was instrumental in breeding through a black cow named "Sultane", two animals which have had a tremendous influence on the breed, namely "Golden Lad" and "Oxford Lass".
The bull "Golden Lad", subsequently bought by my grandfather, Mr. Francis Le Brocq, stood for service at the farm where I now live, until he was exported to England. This bull dominated the scene for several years through his progeny and his blood came through the "Golden Ferns", "Nobles" and "Volunteers" and their descendants to this day. It has been said that practically every living cow or bull in Jersey is descended from him. The cow "Oxford Lass", bred by Mr. G.P. Perredes, was closely related to "Golden Lad" through her sire. She was foundress of the Oxford family, which was closely bred and developed through the years by the Mourant family, producing the great "Sybils Gamboge", who traced seven times out of a possible eight to the same animal "Oxford Lass".

This breeding was followed by the late Mr. E.C. Perredes, who bred "Sybil`s Successpr", "Lady Oxfordia", "Oxfordia Oxford Lad" and many other intensively line-bred animals until his death some twelve years ago. Several breeders on the Island have carried on these bloodlines with success, without losing the dairy qualities and stamina of this strain; although it must be said that periodically Mr. Perredes would seek an outcross bull, such as "Lord of the Isle", "Favourite Volunteer" and "Fountain Natalie`s Dazzler" to mention just three. The latter, bred to the intensively bred Oxford cow, "Munifordia`s Oxfordia 2nd" produced  "Munifordia`s Oxfordia 4th", twice 2.000 gallon cow. This calculated risk proved successful, but unfortunately Mr. Perredes did not live to see the result. At the dispersal sale of his herd, it was my privilege to purchase the dam, carrying the calf "Munifordia`s Oxfordia 4th". If an outcross is made, the resultant progeny should be bred back to the old line.
"Oxford Lass" also played her part in the building up of the Design family. The late Mr. J.A. Perree, having purchased the cow "Oxford Triumph", a double grand-daughter of "Oxford Lass", bred her to "Golden Fern`s Noble" and she produced the three full brothers "Fern Oxford Noble 1st, 2nd and 3rd". The latter being the sire of "Design`s Fern Oxford". These lines have been developed in the eastern part of the Island by the late Mr. T. Renouf and others, and also by the late Mr. Anley  Richardson whose skill and devotion as a breeder, produced the "lynn`s", so ably carried on by his sons today. These, and many other breeders, which I could mention, had a flair for breeding or in other words, the "eye" for a cow, and bred to their own theory.
Let us remember that with a number of bulls available and disease-free herds, the breeder in Jersey has had, and still has, a distinct privilege of using the bull of his choice.

The late Mr. N.J. Perree, who developed the Day Dreams, practised very close breeding. He told me one day that even if he bred out, he always tried to breed to a bull, whose dam was by a Day Dream bull. As an example, by breeding "Day Dream 76" to "Browny`s Designer", whose dam was by "Dreaming Pioneer", he produced "Dreaming Victor", sire of "Itaska`s Fillpail Dream", (1.000 lb Fat cow) and many other top cows. The Design -Day Dream cross has been most satisfactory, and proven by many breeders including Mr. J.E. Gaudin, producing "Design Victorious Dreamer" and other noted animals.
I do not wish to dwell any longer on the past but I wanted to establish how line-breeding to good families has been the way to success both on TYPE and PRODUCTION. Invariably, the bulls or cows, which have stood out over the years, in many cases, are double grandsons or grand-daughters of some outstanding animal.
New strains have evolved through careful breeding; to mention just a few; the Natalies family was developed by the late Dr. Stapleton, whose ambition was to increase the butterfat content. Unfortunately he did not live to see the full success of his efforts, as shown in the recent successes in the herd of Mr. L.J. Rondel, who has produced three generations of 1.000 lb. butterfat cows, and also in my own herd. The ItaskaFillpails and the old-established Ceres bloodlines together with the introduction of "Brilliant of Oaklands has produced the presnet day "Dazzlers". These bloodlines blended with the "Louise" strain, which we have bred for over eighty years, produced the bull "Browny`s Louise Sparkler", so successfully used in Her Majesty the Queen`s Herd at Windsor, as well as many other note-worthy animals.
It is significant, that when good herds are dispersed, the strain often disappears unless some interested breeder takes them up and follows the owner`s line of breeding. Unfortunately, through not keeping up the family name when registering an animal, it`s identity can be lost, for example, the famous cow "Supreme Vedas Design" is a direct maternal descendant of the old "Willonyx" strain successfully bred by the Avrill family.
Experience has shown that the best animals are not necessarily out of Champions either for production or type, but from good cow families with no serious fault on either side of their pedigrees, and I may say that in personal  experience, the best breeding bulls that we have ever had, would never have sold on paper or perhaps would not even have been allowed to be  registered or qualified. They were kept because of the knowledge of their background. On such bull was "Ceres Royal" who was one of the first Medal of Merit bulls in Jersey. Another sired a heifer which gave 19.000 lb. of milk with her first calf and went on to produce 23.000 lb of milk in one year in South Africa.
At this point, I would say that any breeder who works with his cows, is the best judge of which bulls to keep and should be given every encouragement. He should be allowed to prove his theories and after all, he is the one to lose if he proves wrong.
Another theory not accepted by everyone but which is favoured by breeders on the Island, is to retain a bull from a first-calf heifer if she is good and has the proper background. The feeling is that she is more full-blooded and consequently will breed more true to type.It must be said that some of the good cows, from whom several bulls have been used, the first ones have been the best, although there are exceptions of good bulls coming from old cows, notably "Rush Fern Oxford Junior".

This brings me to the subject of present days methods of proving bulls on the contemporary comparison of their first calf daughters.
Are we attaching too much importance to this?
This cuts right across the concept of what breeders on the Island have been taught from an early age: Not to push heifers especially at calving and through theri first lactation, to prevent undue stress on the udder in order to preserve them for a long life in the herd - particularly significant with more modern methods.
Some of the very bedst bulls have produced daughters which were rather slow to mature, perhaps rather disappointing with their first lactation but which blossomed out and became high producers later, keeping their udder attachments longer than those who matured quickly. As I look around, I see cows of eight to ten years of age giving fifty to sixty pounds of milk a day, still with wellattached udders, by bulls who were scrapped because they were minus on the results of their first-calf daughters.
Therefore I would like to see more follow-up on second and subsequent lactations before potentially good bulls are condemned. Surely a long, useful life in the herd is important together with such qualities as regular calving, ease of milking and an even temperament!
Two of the first cows to produce over 1.000 lb butterfat in Jersey, only produced 6.000 lb. of milk on their first lactation and yet one of them, "Itaska`s Fillpail Dream", which I have already referred to, gave 17.797 lb. milk and 1127 lb. butterfat in he eight lactation at the age of eleven. The other "Spring Louise" gave 17.540 lb. of milk and 966 lb. fat at ten years of age and in her next lactation at eleven, she went on  to produce 17.777 lb. milk at 5.8% and 1.027 lb. butterfat. Both these cows retained their udder attachments till their death.
If I may be allowed to quote the 1st Mr. Ben Cooper, speaking at a Dairy Conference in Wales in September 1977 as saying, "You must not delude yourselves that you will get an extra 100 gallons by using a plus 100 bull. It just does not happen like that! Cow families are much more impotant".
If this applies to Friesians, it surely applies to Jerseys!
With fever breeders at the present day and more use of AI, it was felt that there was a danger of losing some of our bloodlines. I was not of this opionion. But any possible danger that there may have been, has been overcome by the joint support of the Department of Agriculture and the Breed Society, who have formed a Livestock Advisory Panel. With their help, semen from proven bulls is stored and also aid is given to proving promising young bulls. Thought is also being given to storing semen from bulls sold for export, if he buyer and seller are agreable.
Most of the well-known strains are still in very good hands and old strains are being revived by some of the younger breeders and I feel that there is still quite a lot of genetic material which has not yet been tapped. There are still several herds on the Island, where no showing or even recording is done and within them are some very good animals of first-class breeding, which have not been exploited. Remember "Brampton Basilua" came from such a herd in Jersey, many years ago.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, we shall be seeking the same answers at the next Conference, still realising that two and two still do not always make four.
Of one thing, I feel confident, however, and that is that whatever is required of the Jersey cow in the future, she will adapt to it nad will never let us down if we ae loyal to her and treat her right!.

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