“Tucked in the northwestern corner of Wisconsin lives a Guernsey herd most have probably heard of by now. Valley Gem Farms, owned by Roy and Gina Grewe and Brandon and Kim Grewe, found themselves under the spotlight at World Dairy Expo last year and again this fall at the North American International Livestock Exhibition as all eyes fell on their homebred cow, Valley Gem Atlas Malt.”
This is a photo of the Grand Lady of Guernseys, “Valley Gem Atlas Malt.” She’s had her picture taken so many times that she veered a bit to the left for me, perhaps showing she was bashful or telling me to lose the camera! Kim Grewe, one of the owners and operators of Valley Gem Farms, commented that Malt has personality, saying “she’s competitive and strong-headed.” Good for her! I’ll add I was not on my toes taking the photo. I was so excited that Roy Grewe, an owner, took me in to see her!
Malt was Grand Champion Guernsey Cow at the World Dairy Expo in 2021 and 2019 and Supreme Champion at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) 2020 in Louisville.
When Roy led me into the barn, I saw this guy working with a Guernsey. Roy said he was giving her a haircut! I didn’t think she needed one, but that shows how little I know. I have read some cows do not like getting a haircut. This one stood perfectly still. I was impressed.
I was also surprised to learn that Guernseys come in brown and white. The Cattle Site says their color varies from “yellow to reddish-brown with white patches.” It says, “They have a finely tuned temperament, not nervous or irritable.” They weigh from 600 to 700 pounds.
The huge attraction is the Guernsey yields high-quality milk and eats less feed than other breeds. They also have fewer problems while calving. The Cattle Site noted, “Guernsey milk contains 12% more protein, 30% more cream, 33% more vitamin D, 25% more vitamin A and 15% more calcium than average milk.”
They seem to offer multiple reasons for breeding and milking them in reading about them. They convert food to product efficiently, they can calve earlier than other breeds, their calves are easy to rear, they adapt to many different climates, they tolerate heat well, mainly because of their light color, and their temperament is gentle.
I have also learned that one bull can produce as many as 1,500 daughters. Artificial insemination enables him to do that. Farmers devote a great deal of effort to breeding offspring with solid genetics.
All that said, their population is decreasing. Part of the reason is that the US dairy cattle population is falling; another reason is the broad appeal of the Holstein, which delivers high volumes of milk. Volume seems to impact. Arnie Winters reported in March 2021,
“Wisconsin now has less than 7 thousand dairy farms but those that are still in operation are turning out a lot of milk. Final figures for 2020 show milk production in the state set a new record for the year at 30.7 billion pounds—up from 30.6 in 2019. The reason was more milk per cow since there were about 2,000 fewer cows in the herd last year. Production per cow averaged 24,408 pounds last year—up 256 pounds from 2019.”
“one bright spot has been the strong demand, both foreign and domestic, for Guernseys. While demand for the more prominent breeds has weakened, Guernsey values stayed strong. However, the decline in Guernsey numbers will make it very hard for our breed to capitalize on this demand going forward. “
He and others have noted worldwide demand for Guernseys is increasing, but the US market has not kept pace. Janet Vorwald Dohner reported in November 2020 for Mother Earth News,
“The American Guernsey Association now registers less than one-third the number of cows than it did twenty years ago. Today only about 1,000 Guernseys are registered in Canada, and slightly more than 6,000 are registered in the United States.”
Nonetheless, the Guernsey has sufficient positives to encourage continued breeding.