Hartpury University and College’s on-site commercial farm based in Gloucestershire will not only look after the in-calf heifers, but will also see its students carry out research on the breed famous for its rich milk.
Plans for the new herd, which joins 200 Holstein milking cows, 200 beef cattle, 250 dairy youngstock and 650 ewes, also includes allowing students the opportunity to showcase them at livestock events.
The decision to purchase Guernsey cows to add to their herd of Holstein-Friesians was made when the dairy joined up to the Mark & Spencer milk pool in October, and on agreement with Muller and Hartpury.
The thought was they would help provide equal milk throughout the year, calving in spring where the Holstein-Friesians calve in autumn.
Another factor for the choice was that Hartpury’s farm manager, Andrew Eastabrook, had previously managed the Brymor Herd in North Yorkshire.
‘[I have] experience with the breed, and felt they could provide educational opportunities for both further education and higher education,’ he said.
‘They boost butterfat of the overall milk sold, in particular when the autumn-calving Holstein-Friesian herd was at peak production, and therefore lowest percentage of milk solids, whilst also meeting the requirement for levelling supply.’
The farm team are said to be delighted to have the Guernsey herd arrive, while students are interested, excited and keen to discuss opportunities to use data in various research projects and dissertations.
There is also somebody local on hand eager to see a bit of their homeland.
‘The farm team are also very happy to have the Guernsey herd here, the stock are extremely quiet, calm and friendly,’ added Mr Eastabrook.
‘The farm’s shepherd is originally from St Sampson’s in Guernsey, and was very vocal in endorsing the breed’s introduction at Hartpury.’
Research will centre around a comparative study of dry matter intake, feed conversion, yield from forage, growth rates of youngstock, among other factors to assess the breed alongside the Holstein-Friesian cohort.
‘We will also be undertaking genomic testing of all Guernsey heifer and bull calves,’ said Mr Eastabrook.
‘This genomic testing will assess a significant number of traits, amongst which will be Beta-Casein A2 [a lesser known protein the Guernsey cow breed protein].’
The majority of the Guernsey cow breed came from Lampeter in West Wales and Billingshurst in West Sussex with the help of the English Guernsey Cattle Society, however, Hartpury is looking to source more Guernsey in-calf heifers for spring 2022.
This is despite already boasting the largest Guernsey research-based herd in the world. They have said they are interested to find out more and discuss the logistics of sourcing breeding stock from Guernsey with island officials.