The Guernsey Goat Breeders of America have submitted their application to the American Dairy Goat Association to have Guernseys be considered a new American breed. The formal consideration will take place at the ADGA convention in Tucson in October. That makes Natasha Lovell, of Walla Walla, Washington, very happy. Lovell, who is 20 years old, has been interested in Guernsey goats since she was eight years old.
"I’ve had goats since 1997," she said. "I found a book in the library with Guernsey in it and I decided that was the goat I wanted. I now have Nubians and Guernseys."
Golden Guernsey doe, Bluecollar Garnet is a second generation American Guernsey doe. She freshened this year with twins and has a DHIR-recorded butterfat percentage of 4.6 percent. She is owned by Natasha Lovell, RubyStar Nubian and Guernsey Goats, Washington.
The Guernsey that little Natasha saw pictured in that library book was the Golden Guernsey from Britain. The breed that the Guernsey Goat Breeders want recognized by the ADGA is genetically similar to but not identical to the Golden Guernsey.
"Golden Guernseys are a very old breed, going back to Roman times," Lovell said.
The Golden Guernseys were first mentioned as a breed in the British Channel Islands records dating back to 1826. Lovell said it is believed they arrived in the Channel Islands on Roman ships. Genetic researchers have discovered that Golden Guernseys are related to Syrian and Maltese goats and not to European breeds. The ancient history of Golden Guernseys is only dimly understood. However, the more recent history is better known. Following World War II, and the German occupation of the Channel Islands, the breed teetered on extinction. Various efforts to save the breed and stabilize its genetics were made just before, and following, WWII.
It was that post-WWII goat that Lovell saw in the library book. Interestingly, others in the United States were also becoming aware and interested in the rare British breed at that same time.
"A guy at Southwind Farm in New York State was able to import embryos to transplant," Lovell said. "He had his first kid in 1998. He has the only purebred Golden Guernsey herd in the United States."
Shortly after Southwind Farm imported their embryos, import/export restrictions eliminated the possibility of further embryo imports. But semen from Britain and from the Southwind herd was available.
Diane Gray, also of Washington State, was one of four people who began importing semen.
"Diane Gray started by crossing with Oberhasli," Lovell said. "Joan Stump, in Pennsylvania, started with Alpines. There have also been some Saanen crosses."
Several years ago, Lovell’s dream of having her own Guernsey came true. She obtained Bluecollar Garnet from Diane Gray. This two-year-old first freshener had two doe kids this spring. She was part of a DHIR milk test program and earned a butterfat recording of 4.6 percent. Unfortunately, one of the 2010 doelings died. The living doe, a third-generation American Guernsey, added to the number of animals required to have Guernseys recognized as a breed with the ADGA.
"We’ll need 100 animals with three generations of pedigree all conforming to the same breed standard," Lovell said. "I believe we were at 79 animals this spring and probably have exceeded the 100 by now."
ADGA rules require a request for new breed recognition to be received six months prior to the annual fall convention, Diane Gray said. Gray is the chair of the Committee seeking recognition for the Guernsey and the Vice-President of the Guernsey Breeders of America. Gray said that the application was submitted to the ADGA in a timely fashion.
Active Golden Guernsey breeder, Joan Stump of Pennsylvania, said that the process at the convention will be that each Director, Officer, Directors Emeriti, and heads of certain committees will have received copies of our proposal for acceptance. The proposal includes a history of the breed, both in Europe and in this country, a detailed description of the attributes the Guernsey brings to ADGA, a Mission statement of the Guernsey Breeders of America breed club, along with a list of its officers and members, a statement of the Breed Standard for the breed and a list of serious faults, a request for a herd-book to be set up for the Guernseys and a description of the type of herd book desired, and a list of four-generation pedigrees of at least 100 animals born and bred in the U. S. within the last 10 years.
"A discussion will follow, with the club president, or myself, answering whatever questions we are asked by the Directors, after which they will vote to accept or not to accept," Stump said.
Stump and Gray said that Guernseys will bring a positive influence to the American dairy goat scene.
Baby Golden Guernsey – Betsy Hutlin, Glastonbury Farm Dairy Goats, Cosby, Tennessee, is breeding some Golden Guernsey dairy goats. Miss Pansey was born at her farm this spring and photographed by Siegfried Forster, Sunrise Farm, when he stopped in to pick up a junior Alpine buck.
"The Guernsey is a small, hardy animal and is known for its ability to produce adequate quantities of high-butterfat milk on forage alone," Gray said. "That is something that none of the higher-volume Swiss breeds can do. Guernseys are easy kidders, as Guernsey kids are born quite small compared to other breeds and present little difficulty to their dams. However, despite their size, they are up and running in a very short time.
They are very hardy and grow quickly. The small size of the breed and gentle temperament makes them very attractive to the small breeder who keeps only a few goats while the high butterfat content of the milk makes them attractive to the cheese makers."
Adding the Guernsey to the ADGA’s list of recognized breeds will have other benefits, Gray said.
"If indeed the animals originated in the Middle East, which seems likely, besides the attributes of milkability, high butterfat, and attractive appearance, the Guernsey may also be bringing what all Middle Eastern goats possess but which all European and American goats lack," she said. "That is immunity to many varied diseases, such as West Nile Fever, which are rampant in the Middle East. Under current USDA regulations, it is impossible to import goats from anywhere in the Middle East. With strange and exotic diseases showing up on our shores on a daily basis, the Guernsey may be our only hope of surviving the onslaught of some of these diseases.
"Adding these animals to the ADGA stable will also serve to perpetuate the breed in this country and indeed in the world. The Golden Guernsey breed is very rare and is listed in England with the Rare Breeds Trust. The Trust is a list comparable for domestic animals to the Endangered Species list for wildlife. This breed is so rare that if left only in England, it could easily be wiped out altogether by disease or at least by the British Government’s response to disease, which seems to be to cull everything for miles around an infected herd."
Lovell said she is excited to be part of a potentially historic moment in the history of the ADGA and of the Golden Guernsey breed. But, meanwhile she is simply enjoying raising Garnet, her kid, and her small herd of Nubians in Washington State.
"The general consensus about Guernseys is that they are calm and gentle. Mine are very friendly and quite affectionate," Lovell said of her slightly russet-red doe and butter-cream-colored doeling. "I hope others in the United States get a chance to meet, see, and possibly own a Golden Guernsey someday too."