Jersey cows: how cream of breeds rose back to top
Ten short years ago Jersey cows were as rare as hen's teeth on local dairy farms. Today Northern Ireland's 4,000 milk producers can't get enough of them.
The resurgence in the popularity of this quintessential dairy breed is by no means a consequence of milk producers yearning to go back to the good old days, rather it is a direct consequence of the commercial direction in which our milk industry is travelling.
Friday at Balmoral Show – in partnership with Ulster Bank – is Dairy Day. And this year's event saw Jersey breeders out in strength.
"We export 85% of our milk in the form of powders, cheese and butter," Seaford Jersey breeder Ashley Fleming told the Belfast Telegraph as he entered the show ring with his second calver, Potterswalls Glams Elisha.
"These products are made from the solid components within the milk. And this is why Jersey cows score so well at the present time. Cows are capable of producing milk with a combined butterfat and protein content well in excess of 11%. The equivalent figure for most other dairy breeds is less than 8%."
Mark Logan, manager of Clandeboye Estates, was also competing in this year's Jersey classes at Balmoral.
"The breed has been at the centre of a proactive improvement programme, one that was initiated almost a decade ago. In the intervening years yields have been doubled, however the actual butterfat and protein percentages within the milk have not been diminished," he said.
"As a result, farmers are getting more milk and an equivalent increase in milk solids. This represents a win-win scenario for producers and the dairy industry as a whole.
"Yes, there has been an increase in the number of pedigree dairy cows kept in Northern Ireland. And this trend is also evident at commercial level.
"By keeping even a small number of Jerseys, farmers with other breeds will be able to improve their milk's butterfat and protein percentage. And that means more money in the monthly milk cheque."
Mr Logan added: "The excellent temperament of the Jersey is another attraction for local milk producers. They are easy to manage and fit in well within any farm set up.
"Jersey cows are also good converters of grazed grass into high quality milk.
"This is another plus for a dairy industry keen to promote its 'green' credentials."