The Royal Jersey Agricultural Society
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The Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society

At the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth century, in Great Britain, interest in the problems and the future of agriculture was becoming awakened by the formation of Agricultural Societies. It was then being realised that agriculture, comprising not only the proper cultivation of the soil, but, no less important, the improvement of British breeds of livestock was the mainstay of the nation. One of the first of these societies was the Bath and West of England, founded in 1777, and during the next fifty years, and particularly in the early part of the nineteenth century, many similar institutions came into being. The Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland was founded in 1784, but the Royal of England, commencing as the English Agricultural Society, was not established until 1838.
To the establishment of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society in 1833 much credit is given to the influence of Michael Fowler, who, in 1811, commenced to import Jersey cattle into England. In his frequent journeys to the Island, it is reported he drew the attention of Jersey breeders to the great cattle shows held in Yorkshire, his native county, the Bath and West of English Society, and local Farmers` Association. An opinion, prevailed at that time that the Island cattle had retrograded during the preceding quarter of a century, and that, as agricultural societies had done much towards improving the breed of cattle in England, something similar might be effected by establishing a society in Jersey.

The Influence of Agricultural Societies. [G.T. Nuttall: The Jersey Breed. Brisbane. 1938]

An historic meeting for the Jersey cattle

Though the first Agricultural Society in the island of Jersey was founded already in 1790. Reginal D. Payn, former editor of The Island Cow,  tells: "I have been able to collect much information from records of their meetings, more than forty in all from 1790 to 1797. This society from the beginning seems to have been very useful in introduction many improvements, and giving much help and advice to Island Agriculturists. It was still in existence at the beginning of the next century, but the members had apparently lost all their previous enthusiasm. These energetic gentlemen who formed the committee during the first seven years were interested in all agricultural pursuits, and their reports give us a fine authentic record of the agricultural activities of this century, especially the latter half. These reports were very diverse, and dealt with crops, implements, seeds, cider, manufacture and a host of other things.

The first meeting was held on 8th May 1790 at Capt. Goddard`s at St. John`s the Rev. Le Couteur was elected President and a committee of seven appointed. Amongst the subjects discussed were to optain the best method of making cider and turning it into eau de vie (brandy). A new machine for cutting potatoes and turnips etc. The construction of a charrue (plough) following the rules of the art, which would serve as a model to all the island makers. That many members considered that starch  made from potatoes was better, because of the goodness, cheapness and glistening whiteness. The best means of fattening cattle, also that some members considered that the island could supply sufficient meat for its consumption.

The next meeting was held on the 31 st May at Mr. J. Pepin`s near Grouville church, at this meeting many new members were enrolled. Possibly the reduction from 50 to 40 vergées of arable land as one of the conditions of membership helped to increase the numbers. It was not necessary for the land to be owned by the member, provided he cultivated the required amount. This meeting must always remain an historic one for Jersey cattle, because it is the first time that a serious attempt was suggested to adopt new methods to improve the island breed. Previously the island cattle received little attention, provided they gave plenty of milk, type was not considered. One of the results of this suggestion was that the offspring of good milkers were kept, and a bull was always selected from these heavy milkers.
Possibly this Society also helped to encourage the States to order a stricker control of imported cattle."
Agriculture in Jersey during the 18th Century. Paper read before Société. Evening Post 9th August 1943.

"The society doesn't seem to have lasted for very long - it is mentioned that in 1812 it was still in existence but clearly not very active.
Email 1998 from Suzanne Le Feuvre, World Jersey Cattle Bureau

Few places of the same size and population as the Channel Islands possess as many agricultural societies. Of the many in Jersey mention should be made of the Royal Jersey Agricultural Society, which was founded in 1833 and was the successor of the Jersey Agricultural Society  founded in 1790; it was made a "Royal" society in 1834. Of the societies in Guernsey mention should be made of the Royal Guernsey Agricultural and Horticultural Society, founded in 1842; like its opposite number in Jersey, it was the successor of an earlier society founded in 1817. Soon after the new society was established Queen Victoria consented to become its patroness, and it has been under royal patronage ever since. In Alderney there is the Royal Alderney Agricultural Society, and in Sark the Garden and Farm Produce Show Committee, Cattle Show Committee and the Horse Show Committee.
Cattle and crops. Raoul Lempriére: The Channel Islands. London 1977.

Early Days.
The Formation of the Royal Jersey Agricultural & Horticultural Society.

There was already a thriving export trade in Jersey cattle in 1833 when the Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society was formed on August 26th of that year "to create a spirit of industry and emulation, to offer premiums for the improvement of agriculture, breeding of cattle, improved domestic economy, cleanliness and comfort in cottages, and also for the encouragement of industry and good behaviour among servants and labourers in the employment of members or subscribers of the Society".

At the end of that year, His Majesty King WIlliam IV bestowed His Royal Patronage upon the Society, an honour which each succeeding Monarch has granted.

The first Show

The first show of cattle organised by the Society was held on Easter Monday, March 31st 1834 following the introduction of the first Scale of Points for judging cattle. In the early years of the Society, the Shows were the only means of recognising superior stock, and in order to improve the Island breed, bulls that won prizes were awarded prize-money in the form of an extra threepence premium on their service fee beyond the customary charge paid, "for every cow belonging to a subscriber that shall be in calf by such bull. " However the prize-winning bulls had to stay at stud for one breeding season, or forfeit their prize. This was the first recognition of Sire Proving, and was a major factor in the establishment of the Jersey breed.

Ten years later, in 1844, Island cattle were shown at England`s Royal Show for the first time. It was held at Southampton and an Island-bred bull, cow and heifer were each successful in winning prizes. At that time, cattle from Jersey were allowed to be sent to England for the Show, and then returned to the Island. In 1862, at the Royal Show at Battersea, the R.A.S.E. introduced special classes for "Jerseys, commonly known as Alderney cattle".

From 1864, the R.A.S.E. scheduled Channel Island classes and finally in 1871 at the Wolverhampton Show, individual classes for Jerseys were introduced. The Bath and West Society followed suit in 1872.

"King Charming" judged to be the best bull in the Channel Islands Class at the Newcastle-upon-Tyne meeting of the R.A.S.E., July 1864.

The Champion Cow at the Society`s Jubilee Show 1883

The importance of the Herd Book.

The 1860`s proved to be an era of important development for the Jersey breed, and in 1860, for the first time, a rigid scale of points for judging cattle was not used at the shows, the judges being allowed the discretion of their opinions, and testing of milk by lactometers was carried out for the first time.

In 1866, the singular most important year for the breed, the Jersey Herd Book was formed, and the official registry of Island cattle began. In that year, there were 12.037 head of cattle in Jersey, of which 611 were bulls.

Also during the 1860`s local Farmer` Clubs were formed in the twelve parishes of the Island, and these "clubs" started the Parish Shows, which are still an important part of the cattle breeding scene in Jersey.

The role of the Herd Book has been paramount in the development of the breed, and until 1972 when Official Classification was introduced, each animal that calved in Jersey was subjected to inspection by a panel of judges, and given a "qualification" of either Highly Commended or Commended. If the animal was not up to standard she would be rejected and would not be allowed entry into the Herd Book proper, thus not being able to have her progeny registered. This system ensured that only animals of a certain standard would be kept for the future improvement of the breed and was an excellent "tool" in the development of the Jersey.

The period from the 1860`s until the First World War were "boom" years for the Island Jersey and was the greatest period of development for the breed world-wide. Memorable moments occurred throughout this period. In 1881, the steady and continued progress in the value of cattle was confirmed with American buyers looking for animals with milk and butterfat properties. Four cows sold for £200 each and two heifers for £200 each.

But it was in 1882 that a new price ceiling was established when the cow, "Khedives`s Primrose" was sold to America for £1.000!

Khedives`s Primrose

In 1893, 24-hour Butter Tests were started in Jersey and although they were not very well supported at first, it soon became a very important way of assessing the production qualities of Island cattle. In 1910, 126 animals turned up for the Butter Test, and the dairymaids  had a full day`s work to do. This was thought to be a world record number of entries for a Butter Test, beating the contests held in the United Kingdom and the USA.

1912 was another important date in the annals of the breed for that was the year that official Milk Recording commenced in Jersey. SInce then, Island cattle have been recorded for their full lactations, thus giving a proper valuation of their production potential.

 Billedtekst: Sales have always been an important took in the distribution of the breed, for which elaborate catalogues were produced and widely circulated.

Survival in adversity

The dark years of the Great War were very apparent in the Island, and like all facets of life in Europe, the Island cattle industry faced hardships with little food being available for the bovine population.

The Butter Tests were discontinued never to be resurrected. At the end of the War a number of discharged officers from all parts of the Empire were sent to the Island to learn farming, particularly cattle breeding. At the Island Spring Show of 1919 a large number of Australian and New Zealand soldiers swelled the audience to see a fine display of the best of breed.

1919 will be remembered by students of the breed world-wide for one important occasion -the Island sire "Sybil`s Gamboge", a bull proven to be one of the greatest sires ever, was sold at public auction in the USA for £65.000 a record which stood for sixty years, and in real financial terms has never been equalled.

Sybils Gamboge

Between the two World Wars the cattle industry had its ups and downs; enjoying some of the best years ever, and also having a number of poor years during the American depression when importation of Island stock was practically at a standstill.

Health and adaptability

One of the greatest assets of the Jersey in her Island home is that she is practically disease free. This is no accident, and has been a constant part of the of breeders, veterinary surgeons and the Government of the Island throughout the history of the Society. Bovine Tuberculosis was unknown, and from 1897 there has been, and still is, a vigorous system of testing constantly in operation. COntagious Abortion, Brucellosis or Bangs Disease was eradicated by slaughter between 1933 and 1938. Other diseases lie Vibrio Foetus and Trichomaniasis are never known to have occurred in the Island, and although Johnes Disease was prevalent during the last century, this too is now practically non-existant.

The health of the Jersey is naturally, most important, and this is also true about the resistance the Jersey has to tropical diseases and she is used extensively in cross-breeding to upgrade indigenous cattle of tropical and semi-tropical regions of the world.

India is a prime example of the upgrading of indigenous cattle and today saome twenty-five million cows are crossed with Jersey bulls to produce future generations of more productive cattle.

More than one breed of cattle has, as its main progenitor the Jersey cow. One of the best known breeds in the tropics is the  Jamaican Hope breed of cattle which contains some 90% of Jersey blood.

Billedtekst: The first cattle to fly-away from the Island were these eight calves destined for Kenya in 1949.

Good out of bad

Once again, the dark days of War halted the progress of the Jersey breed and during the Second World War he Island was occupied by the German army. Many rules were introduced governing the Island, and included in these were laws requisitioning hundreds of animals for slaughter. ALong with the strict control of the registration of calves, the Island herd dropped dramatically in numbers. Fortunately for the breed, the selection for slaughter was controlled by the Society, and mainly inferior animals were taken. Towards the end of the War, the number of cattle selected for slaughter was increased and had the war continued for many more months there may not have been any cattle left on the Island. In reality, the slaughter of the inferior stock left the Island with a nucleous of prime breeding stock, and at the first show following the war, the Island had one of the best shows of the Society continues to this day.

The year following the war heralded the new "boom" in the export of cattle from the Island. This was not, however, to the traditional market of America, but to the United Kingdom, which was to become, in the following years, the Island`s most important customer. In 1946, 1.687 head were exported to England alone, with another 151 going to Canada and the USA and 118 to South Africa. The "boom" continued until the middle 1950`s with over 14.000 head leaving the Island during the ten years following the war. Since that time, however, the breeding of cattle for export alone has been superceded by the breeding of cattle for milk production in the Island, although the Island still enjoys a fair trade with some 8% of the Island herd being exported each year.

Beauty and the Beast


In some ways, development in the Jersey cattle industry during the last thirty years has been less spectacular than the earlier part of the Society`s history, but this is only natural. One of the major developments was in 1968, when artificial insemination was introduced into the Island. This heralded a new kind of availability of Island blood on the world market, and indeed many breeders in different parts of the world have availed themselves of the opportunity of using a pure Island sire in their herds.

The Mil Recording scheme by the Society in 1912 was taken over by the States of Jersey, Department of Agriculture in 1969, and i 1981 the scheme was linked to the scheme run by the Milk Marketing Board of England and Wales and today all the Island`s recorded cattle -some 96% of all milking stock -are calculated through the computers of the Milk Marketing Board.

 The development of a breed of dairy cattle is a slow process and changes are small rather than major, but together these small changes add up to improvement with a capital "I". The Island of Jersey is but a dot on the map, but its influence in the breeding of dairy cattle worldwide is extensive, providing the world with a cow that is Supreme for the production of milk, butterfat and protein.

If one looks back at the Jersey of 1833 or even before that significant date, and compares her with the Jersey of today, whether that Jersey be in her Island home or across the continents of the WOrld, one will see that what was once "an illshaped beast, that knew not the taste of mangolds, carrots or swedes, nor scarcely that of hay, whose food consisted chiefly of straw and a few watery turnips" ...... has become the beauty of the bovine world, coupled with the utility of the supreme dairy animal.

Royal Patronage

When his Majesty King William IV conferred His Royal Patronage upon the Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society in 1834, he set a precedent which has been graciously continued by each successive Monarch since then. To celebrate its first year of existence the Society sent a gift of fruit to His Majesty the King. It included 103 Chaumontel, 36 Cressanne, 35 Beurre d`Arembert, 24 Golden Pippen, 48 Pigeonnet, 24 Waterford as well as other varieties of pears and apples many of which have long since gone out of cultivation.

In 1837 Her Majesty Queen Victoria ascended the Throne, and shortly after graciously granted Her Royal Patronage upon the Society. She visited the Island with the Prince Consort in 1846, when a gift of fruit was presented to her. The following year the Society sent a two year old heifer (bought from Mr. Thomas Filleul for £23) and a yearling bull with another heifer, both given by the Society`s President, Sir John Le Couteur, to WIndsor, where Sir John, representing the Society made a gift of the animals to Prince Albert.

In 1883, a Royal Address was sent to Her Majesty, commemorating the Jubilee of the Society. In 1887, Her Majesty Queen Victoria`s Jubilee was celebrated by a combined show of the Society in June of that year, where the judging of cattle took place in public for the first time, spectators having to pay 2/6 for the privilege of admission.

In January 1901, His Majesty King Edward VII granted His Royal Patronage to the Society, although during his reign he neither visited the Island nor is there any record of a gift being made from the Society.

His Majesty King George V did, however, visit Jersey in 1921, where he was presented with a splended gentlemen of the breed, "La Sente`s Miss Beonzemine", at the Society`s showyards at Springfield.

In 1936, King George V died, and His Majesty King Edward VIII  took his place on the Throne, only to abdicate eleven months later. Four days after, His Majesty King George VI was proclaimed King, and following in the footsteps of His predecessors, including his brother Edward VIII, granted Royal Patronage to the Society.

King George VI and Queen Elisabeth (the present Queen Mother) visited Jersey less than a month after the Liberation of the Island from the German occupation, a visit which lifted the morale of the local people enormously.

In February 1952, King George VI died and Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II ascended the Throne and on June 23rd bestowed Her Royal Patronage upon the Society. In 1957 during a visit on the Island with Prince Philip, she was presnted with the cow, "Beauchamp Oxford Lady" by the Society.

In June 1978 the Society celebrated the occasion of the third visit of Her Majesty to the Island (she came with H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh as Princess Elizabeth in June 1949) with the presentation of the cow "Ansom Designette".

150th Anniversary 1833-1983. Royal Jersey Agricultural & Horticultural Society.
 sidst opdateret 29-09-00