The Jersey Dairy Industry

A Paper Read by Colonel Le Cornu, La Hague Manor, Jersey (ca 1900)

In treating this subject, the first question which seems to present itself is how far dairying, within its actual narrow limits, is to be estimated as an industry of the island, and yet it must be taken as such, even within the scope of its limited area. To assist in forming an opinion on the subject, it is necessary that a few remarks should be offered on the physical features of the island, the population, the subdivision of the farming tenements, and the principal agricultural trade.

The whole area of Jersey is computed at about 28.717 acres. The country rises abruptly to a considerable height above the sea level on the north side, and has a gentle slope southwards. It is intersected by narrow valleys, well watered, which terminate, in parts, in lowland of great and early productiveness. The high ground and slopes vary considerably. The east side of the island, which is the most wooded, is also the richest. On the west side it is in some parts light and even sandy, but this is only the exception, for on the whole Jersey must be viewed as highly favoured, both as regards its soil as well as its climate. The population may be estimated at about 54.000, one half of whom lead a town life and the other half a country one.

The farm holdings are small. A great number will be found under 10 acres. From 15 to 20 acres is about the average, and rarely do any exceed 50 to 60 acres; there are a few, but these generally comprise a proportion of light or waste land. On an average farm of 20 acres, where meadows or orchards do not predominate, the distribution of the ground would approximately be as follows.

 Hay and Pasture  20 Vergées
 Potatoes and Roots 15
 Corn 10


The stock on such a farm would consist of 2 horses, 6 cows, 6 heifers and 5 or 6 pigs.
According to the returns supplied last year to the Board of Trade, there were 2.797 occupiers of land, and the agriculture of the island was sub-divided as follows:

Corn Crops     5.184 3/4
Potatoes and Roots  17.020
Vetches, Tares and Lucerne      290 1/4
Bare Fallow Land, from which no crop was taken        418 1/4
Clover and Rye Grass   
For Hay   7.866  
Not for Hay   4.527 1/4 
Permanent Grass, exclusive of Furze or Heath Land   
For Hay  3.257 1/4
Not for Hay  5.787
Small Fruit  252 1/4
Orchards  1.837 1/4
Market Gardens  182 3/4
Nursery Gardens  47 3/4
The Return of Live Stock was given as under             No
Horses for agricultural purposes     2.186  
Ditto              Ditto       unbroken        157 
Cows and Heifers of all ages, in milk or in calf..     6.762  
Cattle, other than those in milk or in calf,
2 years old and above 
Cattle, under 2 years of age (including calves)      4.397  

As bearing upon the question before us, we should now consider the general treatment of cows as followed on the island. In order to derive the greatest possible advantage from his cows, the Jersey farmer endeavours to regulate the calving for the spring of the year, i.e., when vegetation speedily advances. In the winter cattle are housed at night. When they come in they each receive, after milking, about three-quarters of a bushel of roots and a little hay. This done, they are left till eight o`clock, when they receive either additional hay or straw. The following morning they are attended to early, and, having been milked, receive roots and hay as on the previous evening. At nine o`clock they are turned out, if the weather permits. Cows are dried a months or six weeks before calving. Bran mashes are frequently given to them about the time of parturition, and continued for a fortnight or so after the calf is born. Bull calves intended for the butcher receive the cows milk for a month or six weeks. When the calf is a heifer she is always reared up and kept in the island until she is two years old, and then, if not required, she is sold or exported.

Returning to the cow, two weeks or so after calving, if the weather be fine, she is turned out to grass in the daytime. It is the custom in all the Channel Islands to tether cattle. They are frequently moved during the day, generally every two or three hours. Water is given them in the morning, on leaving the stable, and at noon. In the summer they have it also in the evening.About the end of May they are allowed to remain out at night, and this practice continues until the end of September, when the system of houses recommences. In the summer cows are frequently milked three times a day. A cow is considered in her prime at six years old. A good cow will give 12 quarts of milk per day, or from 9 to 10 lbs. of butter per week [112 lbs English are exactly equal to 103 lbs 14 3/4 ozs. Jersey]. There are instances of cows yielding 12 lbs or even 14 lbs of butter in one week, but this is much above the average, and exceptional. It must be noted that these statements refer to cows fed on grass only, without additional food of any description. ALthough these remarks apply to the system generally pursued, it is only right to state that there are many exceptions to it. A much more liberal treatment is followed on many farms with a proportionate increased result, either in milk or butter, according to the nature of the food employed. As a rule or no cake is used, but chiefly bran and farinaceous food

Having dwelt upon the mangement and the feeding of cows, we next come to the dairy management, as generally practised. Cows are milked chiefly by women. The milk is going into the can  passes through a linen strainer which covers the top of the can. When the work is finished, the milk is taken to the dairy and emptied into deep earthenware vessels. The dairy is in the majority of cases is hardly suitable for the purpose required. The milk is allowed to stand in these vessels, called crocs [crocks], till the cream has risen and become firm. The next process is that of skimming the cream. This is done by the farmers wife or daughters. In doing this, the cream is first detached from the side of the vessel and raised together as much as possible; by inclining the crock [croc] over that destined to receive the cream, sometimes nearly the whole slips off the thick milk, and the remainder is removed with a skimmer. The skimmer used for this purpose is a small, flat, perforated ladle. The cream is placed in a large crock kept for the purpose, and is allowed to stand until such time as it is required for churning. At the bottom of the old-fashioned cream crocks there is a small hole stopped up by a peg, which is occasionally used to drain off the serous portion separating from the cream. Churning, as a rule, is carried on twice a week during the summer months, and once a week during the winter.

There are many varieties of churns in use, the most common is the square box churn fitted with beaters, which work on a rotary action. After the churn has been scalded with boiling water and made ready, the cream is worked. The speed at which the churning commences is comparatively slow. The temperature of the cream is kept as nearly as possible at 58º to 60º. As soon as the butter begins to separate and form, cold water is added, and after a little more churning the butter milk is drawn. The churning is then continued, more cold water being added, and the same process of drawing the milk followed until the butter remains in a semi-solid mass. It is then, after being well washed in this way, removed from the churn and placed in a large wooden bowl, which has also been scladed. Next comes the process of salting, this may be done either by the addition of the salt itslef to the butter, or by its being added thereto in the form of a liquid. In either case it is employed usually in the proportion of ½ os per pound of butter.

The next operation is that of working the salt and butter together. The old and primitive mode of doing this, by means of kneading it with a large wooden spoon in the bowl, is still in vogue, although butter-workers are gradually being adopted. If the butter is intended to be made up for winter supply, additional salt would be added in the kneading; if the butter is for immediate sale, it is made up in pats of 1 lb. each, and marked with a stamp bearing the name of the maker. Every precaution is supposed to be taken to work the butter as dry as possible, but it must be said that too frequently this is not so strictly adhered to as it should be. It is usually estimated that in the best months from eight to nine quarts of milk are, on the average, required to make 1 lb of butter. The butter made in the island is almost all used for home consumption. There is a certain quantity exported, but it is extremely small.

No cheese is amde, nor does it appear that cheese-making has ever been much followed here, our farmers are entirely  deficient in any knowledge on this. Mr. Poingdestre, a Jersey historian, writing in 1682 says: "In these arable grounds they pasture their kine, which afford them very delicate butter, much esteemed for taste and colour, but for cheese they make very little, and that which is amde is subject to grow dry and hard, if care be not taken to prevent it."

The sour and butter milk is used for rearing young stock and swine, which is viewed as the best and most profitable use that can be made of it.

It has been stated that the export of Jersey-made butter is very limited. This would appear almost unaccountable, seeing that for many years past an article called "Jersey Butter" was prominent in the English markets. But it will only be necessary to observe that this so called "Jersey Butter" was made in Brittany, and sold in England as "Jersey". Public attention was called to this fraudulent trade by the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society as far back as 1864, and again in 1888, when the matter was made the subject of a representation to the Commissioners of Customs. The exportation of butter from this island being so small as hardly deserving the consideration of an island export, the value to the farmer of dairying, as at present existing, may then be summed up, as the returns which he gets, through the sale of milk, or of butter, as the case may be, for insular requirements; his own family supply; and the proceeds of the sour milk for the rearing of young stock and feeding of pigs.

Milk for the supply of the town population is brought in from the neighbouring districts morning and evening, and is sold by farmers to retailers at 8d to 9d per gallon, or if retailed to the consumer at about 3d a quart. Butter is sold either in the public market or at shops in the town of St. Helier. Wednesday and Saturday are the market days, when women purchase the butter brought in, and retail it on their own account, or for farmers on commission. The market value of butter for the year 1889 averaged a little under 1s 2d, and i 1890 a little under 1s 3d per pound.

There is no doubt that one of the greatest drawbacks to the progress of dairying in Jersey has been the successful culture of the potato, which for many years past has almost wholly absorbed the attention of farmers in this island. Every available spot has been devoted to this culture, to the detriment of other branches of farmiing, and, in many cases, to their extinction. SOme thirty years past, farming in Jersey was based on a rotation of crops. Old ley was broken up for roots, either parsnips, carrots, turnips, or mangolds, followed the next year by corn or potatoes, and succeeded in the ensuing year by more roots after corn or corn after potatoes, and then by clover and grasses for a 2 or 3 years ley, or even longer. A large acreage was also devoted to orchards, producing a rich and abundant pasture, but the culture of the potato on its present extensive scale has materially changed the old system.

At present dairying occupies a secondary place in the farmers esteem. Much of the best pasture ground is now planted in  potatoes, and root crops have also undergone a change. In former times parsnips and carrots were considerably grown for winter use, the nourishing properties of the former and the agreeable flavour the latter imparts to butter admit of no doubt, but again the potato occupies the ground in the place of these, except in few particular cases. Mangolds, swedes, and other varieties of turnips are the chief food for cattle in winter, and are abundantly grown as a second crop after the early potatoes have been raised.

It must also be observed that a considerable portion of the land under cultivation is not as formerly tilled by the proprietors, but let to thrifty class of persons, many of french nationality or extraction, who make farming a momentary speculation, and whose interest in the future of the land is nil.

Further, taking into consideration that, owing to the very high rental of land ,leases are often for a short term and the conditions easy, it is readily understood how fields are year after year planted in potatoes, and old pastures are gradually getting less. The potato has for many years been the great staple of the island, it is computed that the export realises at least £ 250.000 yearly.

The pride which the Jersey farmers wife formerly took in her dairy mangement is not feature in the classes to which reference had been made. Many of the present day are satisfied with a small badly ventilated place, not unfrequently surrounded by various articles of food, injurious to the milk or cream, and in the smallest holdings a cupboard in the kitchen is the sole receptacle for all that pertains to the dairy. On the other hand, there is still a fair number of landowners who work their own estates, as well as a better class of tenant farmers whose aim in dairying is to produce a good article, and who so do. These have to come extent introduced new features in their dairies. Some have adopted the Cooley Creamer, others "The Jersey" Creamer, still the great majority continue to use the drop milk crock, and to skim when set.

In the report of the Agricultural Department of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society for 1885, farmers are strongly recommended to co-operate in the establishment of district dairies throughout the island, where the milk should be brought and made into butter on the best known principles. On this subject the report states: "The Committee would suggest the formation of Dairy Companies, with branch establishments in the several parishes throughout the island, at each of which milk would be brought, and from which butter would be properly and systematically made and prepared in such condition as to be able to compete with the very best that is anywhere produced. To get this article it is well known that dairying must be carried out on a large scale, with all the proper appliances, and it must be admitted that as a rule these conditions do not apply to the small farms of the island. In the first place the quantity of milk in small holdings is insufficient, and the making in general is not that which is altogether calculated to produce butter in the best condition and under the most advantageous circumstances; whereas in the manner proposed, good milk would obtain a ready sale, and the farmers themselves, by becoming part-proprietors or shareholders in the companies, would participate in the full advantages of the undertaking. This, the Committee believe, would create a sensible revolution in the present state of things, which would raise the name and the standard of pure and well-made Jersey butter both in and out of the island. There would at least be a guarantee offered to the public, which can scarcely be said to exist at present, and the farmer himself, under such conditions, would be relieved of any blame which may be unjustly imputed to him." It might further be said that from time to time the Agricultural Department of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society has brought to notice different milking and buttermaking trials which have been carried out by its Committee.

It would be superfluous in this paper to dwell at length upon the merits of the Jersey cow, as her reputation is universal, but it is indeed derogatory to her good name that the butter industry of her native isle should not be at par with her excellence, especially as for richness of milk she is not excelled by any other race of cattle. The high quality of the milk of Jerseys will be familiar to all members of the British Dairy Farmers Association, and has been proved year by year at the Associations milking trials in London, and by many published records in England and America. It may nevertheless be of interest to quote testimony based on experience of these cows in their native home. Mr. Woodland Toms, F.I.C., F.C.S., the official analyst of Jersey, states:
"The richness of Jersey milk in butter fat is a never ending surprise to me. It is quite common to receive milk containing 6 to 7 per cent of butter fat, and comparatively rare to receive milk with less than 3½ per cent.
"The following are average results per cent:

  Total   Other Milk   
 Analyses          Solids Fat  SolidsAsh 
 Milk of 25 separate cows.         47 14-35  5-10     9-25      77
 Milk of herd genuine              54 14-06   4-90    9-24      72

"The first figures agree closely with the average results given for Jersey milks at English milking trials. On the other hand Shorthorns and similar English breeds average 12-9 total solids, 3-82 fat, 9-12 solids other than fat, and o-72 ash.

"The result prove that a high quality of milk is not limited to a few specially fed for show purposes, but is a valuable characteristic of the breed. Not merely is the Jersey surpassingly rich as a butter cow, but the other solid constituents of its milk are high also; in fact, Jerseys yield a more concentrated milk than other breeds."

In Jersey, as elsewhere, the market has been spoiled by the competition of cheap foreign butter and "butter substitutes." To forbid the sale of these substances is of course impossible, but this Society was largely instrumental in the passing of a law which has, it is hoped, checked the sale of margarine under the name of butter, and it is at the same time a guarantee that the butter turned out by our farmers is pure and unadulterated.  According to this law, "butter substitutes" or adulterated butter can only be legally sold under the name of margarine. The vendor must be licensed, and is not allowed to sell to an unlicensed person more than 3 lbs of margarine at any one time, or on any one day, and he must keep a book, open to the inspection of the police, of his sales and purchases in this article. Neither is an unlicensed person allowed to buy or receive more than 3 lbs of margarine at any one time. It is also enacted that all Jersey butter be stamped with the name and parish of the maker. To stamp foreign butter as Jersey is a penal offence.

With respect to the composition of Jersey butter, Mr. Woodland Toms contributes the following data:

 Moisture           Curd Salt  
 33 show butters, 1886              8-00        2-50      2-13
 7     ditto     1890           
 11-37        1-55      1-37
 15 market butters                 10-80        2-30      1-80
 8 factory butters                 13-90        0-93      0-80

"The farm-made butter varied in quality, flavour, colour, and composition very greatly, some excellent, some most inferior. "Curd" has varied from 0-5 per cent, to 6-5 per cent, water from 4 to 18 per cent, salt from 0-3 to 3-5. The factory-made butter, of which I have received many samples from Mr. Griffin, and more lately from the Jersey Steam Butter Company, have been very uniform in composition (12-8 to 14 moisture, 0-6 to 1-0 curd) and colour, and of excellent flavour and keeping quality.

"With respect to margarine, the statement that farmers have used it for mixing is, so far as my experience goes, almost entirely fiction. I have only met with two cases in seven years, one from this, and the other from a sister island. On the other hand, I have over and over again received market samples believed to be adulterated with margarine which I found to be unquestionably genuine, though rancid and badly made. That margarine used to be largely sold as tub or French butter here is, however, a fact.

"It may be of interest to insert the following average analysis, showing composition of the butter fat in Jersey butter, contrasted with butter generally and margarine:


"Although the chemistry of butter fat is too complex a matter for discussion here, yet it will be seen that there are marked differences between butter and its substitutes. Notably there exists in butter certain characteristics "soluble" or "butter acids" that are virtually ebsent from the other animal fats (see last two columns, "soluble acids" and "Wolney" figures).

"There appears likewise a slight difference between the butter fat of different breeds, for while Danish butter is said to yield rather lower results than English butters, our Jersey butters show results slightly above the average of English records, points which, other things being equal, should  favourably influence the quality of the butter."

In reference to butter factories, two have been started in the island since the report of the Society for 1885 was published. One is of quite recent date, known as the "Jersey Steam Butter Factory", in the parish of St. Lawrence; the other , a private enterprise, was in operation for a short time, during which, it is said, the butter produced commanded the highest prices in the market. It is self evident that in a properly conducted establishment, where every regard is paid to butter making, an article of superior value must be produced to that which is made under the conditions generally met with in small holdings, and it seems but a natural consequence that the produce of the former must fetch a higher price than that of the latter. But it is, nevertheless, not always an easy matter to find an outlet at remunerative prices even for a good article, especially in these days when attention is much given to dairying, and that this trade is largely carried on from many foreign parts. The science of agriculture, together with the great facilities of transport, have, within the last decade, brought many and great changes in every branch of produce trade.

The members of the Agricultural Department of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society view with much pleasure the visit of the British Dairy Farmers Association to the island, and they express the hope that, through the interchange of ideas and the recommendations of the Association, the agricultural community of Jersey will derive that benefit which will tend to the development of an industry specially the object of the Association.

In closing this paper, the following points are submitted; How far has the butter-factory system, on the co-operative principle, proved a success elsewhere? In what direction can our farmers individually improve their dairy management, and effect a better sale of their produce?

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