A personal perspective on the history of Guernsey NZ

Below is the history of the involvement of the foremost members of the association.

Mike Turner

I had been involved, with the breeding of pedigree Guernsey Cattle in England for 20 years, prior to immigrating to New Zealand in 1970. During which time I gained a good insight into the breed development in the UK and other parts of the world.

On arrival in New Zealand stock and station agents were contacted for information on Guernsey cattle, all to no avail. Possible contacts all resulted in they were several years ago, but no one knew what happened to the supposedly Guernsey type cattle.

As I was farming in the Waikato for the first 6 years, I made enquiries with the herd improvement and various AI Centers, to determine whether any Guernsey semen was available. Results were, none existed. I then sent a letter to all users of herd improvement facilities to ask interested people to contact me. A few enquires came forth, from this , semen from the milk marketing board was imported and with further publicity in Farming papers and radio, people began to use the semen, a few straws at a time.

During this time many people said you could never establish another dairy breed in New Zealand. This was a challenge, even though I did have my doubts, but continued to try and promote the benefits.

Jim Lichtwark

The New Zealand Guernsey Cattle Breeders Society was established in November 1978 a lot of hard work has been done by many people over the years and we have had many highs and lows on our journey of 25 years. In my report to conference I presented a chronology of our progress. Now I would like to take the time to enlarge on our greater achievements.

On starting on this journey a lot of promotion was done by many of us and we would come up against the commercial dairyman who was to ask the question “Why Guernsey”. It took a lot of courage to stand by our conviction in the early years. We have now moved on from those years because we now have evidence that the Guernsey cow does perform in New Zealand.

There are members through out the country with varying numbers of animals. Over the years we have had many breeders visit us from overseas most of which have been used to promote the breed in the News Media.

The breed is now accepted as one of our dairying breeds as we are part of the Dairy Breeds Federation and are invited to contribute to take part in planning for the future of our industry along with other Breed Societies.

Over the last 10 years with the changing industry to bigger farmers the importance of breeding has become less important with farm managers employed it is becoming more difficult to interest farmers in Guernsey Cattle.

Over the years we have come up with programmes to entice people to look at Guernsey’s as a sire in their breeding programmes with some succeeding and others not so good.

In 1989 we purchased a share in the national herd recording data base with the future in mind to have information at our finger tips and be with all other dairy breeds on a common level, lightening the load on voluntary personal.

We started initially with the use of English semen and have used Canadian, Australian, American and Guernsey so we have a broad cross section of sires used, but our members prefer to have medium sized animals as it suits our all grass management better. Local bulls are now becoming available and are being actively promoted and used by our breeders. We sell them with overseas bulls as a package to be able to compare them in the same environments.

Some of our members have been at all the World Federation Conferences since it’s formation in Australia in 1985. In 1995 we hosted locally the 8th World Guernsey Federation Conference. This was a challenge to us all, our members were well satisfied with the results from conference. The exposure that we received during conference from the media again gave us a chance to lift the profile of the Guernsey Cow.

During the years we have contributed to the Federation Programmes where we can. Our numbers will not let us be included at times but we are willing to contribute where we can.

Now that 25 years of development has past we look to the future challenges for the Guernsey Cow. As the Foundations are now well laid we will look at opportunities in Cross Breeding, and niche milk products were possible. To capitalise on some of these opportunities due to our numbers the long-term sustainability is currently an issue. But we remain positive about the Guernsey Cow and it’s future with our memberships support. We have knowledge that there is a number of cows in many herds in New Zealand where farmers are not members of the society. So we will continue to promote and wave the flag at every opportunity presented. We owe it to those who started the Guernsey Cattle Society in 1978.